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Microsoft buys professional social networking service LinkedIn for $26.2B

Microsoft on Monday announced it will acquire LinkedIn in an all-cash transaction worth $26.2 billion, bringing more than 433 million members of the social networking site under the Redmond, Wash., company's banner.

LinkedIn is the largest professional network in the world, and Microsoft will pay $196 per share to acquire the publicly traded company. Microsoft has vowed to allow LinkedIn to "retain its distinct brand, culture and independence" after the transaction is complete.

Jeff Weiner is set to remain LinkedIn's chief executive, and will report directly to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. The acquisition is said to be supported by both Weiner and Reid Hoffman, chairman of LinkedIn's board, co-founder and controlling shareholder. The boards of both LinkedIn and Microsoft also approved the deal.

"Just as we have changed the way the world connects to opportunity, this relationship with Microsoft, and the combination of their cloud and LinkedIn's network, now gives us a chance to also change the way the world works," Weiner said. "For the last 13 years, we've been uniquely positioned to connect professionals to make them more productive and successful, and I'm looking forward to leading our team through the next chapter of our story."

In touting the acquisition, Microsoft said that LinkedIn has grown its membership 19 percent year over year, while unique visitors now total 105 million per month. The site boasts 45 billion quarterly member page views, and more than 7 million active job listings.

"The LinkedIn team has grown a fantastic business centered on connecting the world's professionals," Nadella said. "Together we can accelerate the growth of LinkedIn, as well as Microsoft Office 365 and Dynamics as we seek to empower every person and organization on the planet."

In terms of price, Microsoft's $26.2 billion purchase of LinkedIn blows away the $8.5 billion the company spent on communications service Skype in 2011. The Windows maker is known for big-dollar acquisitions, having also bought Nokia's cell phone business for $7.2 billion back in 2013.

Microsoft's push into social networking marks an area where its rival, Apple, has struggled. Historically, Apple has shied away from high-profile acquisitions, preferring instead to build its own services.

Its most recent stab at an in-house social networking service, Apple Music Connect, is rumored to be downplayed in a forthcoming redesign of Apple Music. It's expected that Apple will unveil those changes today, as part of iOS 10, at its Worldwide Developers Conference keynote.