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Last Updated: Friday, 31 October, 2003, 20:07 GMT
Microsoft 'explored Google tie-up'
Google headquarters
Google: A leading internet brand
Software giant Microsoft held abortive talks with internet search engine Google over a possible partnership or merger, according to a press report.

The New York Times reported that Microsoft approached Google to discuss partnership options at some point during the last two months, citing unnamed sources.

The talks failed to get off the ground, with Google opting instead to press ahead with plans to float on the stock market, the newspaper reported.

A Microsoft spokesperson declined to comment, saying the company would not confirm or deny "rumours."

Any attempt by Microsoft to forge an alliance with Google is likely to be interpreted as a sign that it regards the search engine as a growing competitive threat.

Growth story

Google, the most widely-used web search tool, has become one of the best-known internet brands since it launched in 1998.

The privately-owned company does not publish financial information, but annual revenues - generated through sponsored searches and technology licensing deals - are estimated at up to $1bn (680m).

Google's stock market flotation plans, which coincide with a resurgence in technology stocks, have stirred hopes of a second financial boom for internet and technology firms.

The company is reported to have drawn up a shortlist of investment banks to help arrange a share sale.

The New York Times reported that Morgan Stanley is seen as the front-runner in the race to win the contract.

However, Google is also said to be considering selling shares directly to the public online in an effort to avoid the brokerage scandals seen in some high-profile share flotations in the 1990s.

An online share sale would also help the company build up a large base of small shareholders.

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