Facebook Still Wants to Avoid Getting Snatched Up DEALTALK

As Microsoft battles for a deal with Yahoo, what is in store for Facebook?

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and chief executive of the social networking site, is stressing his company’s independence.

“You can tell, from our history and what we’ve done, that we really wanted to keep the company independent, by focusing on building and focusing on the long-term,” Zuckerberg told Mariko Katsumura of Reuters on Monday while in Japan for the start of a Japanese language version of Facebook.

Microsoft already has a small stake in Facebook, and The Wall Street Journal reported this month that Microsoft, having failed in its $47.5 billion bid for Yahoo, had approached Facebook to gauge its interest in a full takeover.

Zuckerberg declined to comment on the prospect of a sale.

Microsoft has not given up on a deal with Yahoo. The company said Sunday that it had proposed an alternative plan to Yahoo.

Facebook, which Zuckerberg founded when he was at Harvard University in 2004, has become one of the hottest properties on the Internet because of its strong loyalty among the more than 70 million users who swap pictures, messages and virtual gifts.

Microsoft took a $240 million stake in Facebook in October, a purchase that valued Facebook at $15 billion.

Li Ka-shing, the Hong Kong investor, recently put $120 million into Facebook, and smaller investors have contributed another $15 million.

Zuckerberg has resisted selling the entire company, opting to work toward an initial public offering.

Facebook is starting a Japanese Web site to try to lure users in Japan’s online networking market, which is dominated by a Japanese firm, Mixi. Mixi has more than 10 million users and an 80 percent share of Japan’s social networking market, valued at yen44 billion, or $422 million.

Zuckerberg said he was confident that Facebook could lure Japanese users because its offerings were different from its rivals. Facebook users give their real names, Zuckerberg said.

“The biggest thing about Facebook is that it’s real names and real people,” Zuckerberg said, adding that this made his site more trusted.

He said Facebook was planning to start a Japanese language service on cellphones, something Mixi already does.

Originally published by Reuters.

(c) 2008 International Herald Tribune. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.

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