07 October 2010

Adobe Shares Surge on Report of Microsoft's Interest in Merger


Adobe Systems Inc. shares surged as much as 17 percent, triggering exchange circuit breakers meant to curb volatility, on a report that Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer discussed buying the company.

The New York Times reported that Ballmer recently visited Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen at Adobe’s offices in San Francisco. The discussion centered on Apple Inc.’s control of the mobile- phone market and how the two companies could work together to compete, the Times said. A possible acquisition of Adobe by Microsoft was among the options discussed, according to the newspaper.

Adobe rose $2.96, or 12 percent, to $28.69 at 4 p.m. on the Nasdaq Stock Market. Earlier in the session, the shares jumped as high as $30, triggering the circuit breaker halt for five minutes. The stock has declined 22 percent this year.

Adobe has clashed with Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who banned Adobe’s flash video software from Apple’s mobile devices. Adobe won a partial victory on Sept. 9, when Apple eased restrictions on creating applications for its iPhone and iPad devices. Apple had prevented developers from using Adobe’s Flash video software.

Rival Standard

Still, the change didn’t let Flash apps run inside the browser on Apple devices, and that’s a larger concern, Jeff Gaggin, an analyst at Avian Securities Inc. in New York, said last month. Apple, which dominates the market for mobile apps, is promoting an Internet standard called HTML5 instead.

At the meeting, which included a “small entourage of deputies,” Ballmer and Adobe discussed how they might counter Apple’s position in smartphones, the New York Times said. The companies had held informal discussions about a Microsoft acquisition of Adobe several years ago, according to the report. Adobe has a market value of $15.1 billion.

Adobe spokeswomen Holly Campbell and Jodi Sorensen weren’t immediately available for comment. Frank Shaw, a spokesman at Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft, declined to comment.

Adobe forecast sales last month that fell short of analysts’ estimates, sending the shares down the most in eight years. Cash-strapped schools aren’t paying for as many copies of the product, which includes Photoshop and Illustrator, the San Jose, California-based company said. The sluggish economy in Japan, typically Adobe’s biggest Asian market, also hampered sales.

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