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Facebook may buy Microsoft's Atlas advertising platform, reports say

The social networking company is reportedly planning to launch an ad network to rival Google's

Facebook is in talks with Microsoft over a potential deal to buy Microsoft's Atlas ad serving platform, a component of Microsoft's US$6 billion acquisition of aQuantive in 2007, according to published reports.

The acquisition of Atlas would be a big step by Facebook to accelerate its revenue engine and please Wall Street investors, who have been lukewarm about the social networking company since its IPO earlier this year.

Citing anonymous sources, Business Insider and The Wall Street Journal's All Things D separately reported on Thursday that Facebook and Microsoft are in talks.

According to Business Insider, Facebook wants to use Atlas for a new ad network of third-party websites that would compete against that of Google. Failed bids for Atlas from other suitors haven't topped $30 million, the financial news website reported.

Meanwhile, AllThingsD reported that Facebook has been debating internally whether to build an ad serving platform from scratch or buy one like Atlas, and that it's now leaning toward the latter option.

Microsoft has acknowledged that the aQuantive deal didn't work out as planned. In May it said it would take a $6.2 billion goodwill charge because the ad unit didn't boost revenue as much as it had hoped.

Facebook's stock was floated on the Nasdaq exchange at $38 per share on May 18, but it has been trading considerably below that price due to investor skepticism about its ability to sustain its rate of growth.

Wall Street warmed a bit toward the company when it reported third-quarter results in late October and said it has a substantial revenue growth opportunity in mobile advertising.

At the time, Facebook said mobile ad sales had accounted for 14 percent, or about $150 million, of the quarter's total revenue, and that growth in this area was accelerating.

Facebook's revenue for the third quarter, ended Sept. 30, rose 32 percent to US$1.26 billion, and it reported a net loss of $59 million, or $0.02 per share.

Facebook's stock closed Thursday at $26.97.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

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