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SAN FRANCISCO—Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer refused to say whether the software company was looking to buy either Yahoo or Facebook, despite much prodding from John Batelle, the co-host of the Web 2.0 Summit here Oct. 18.

But Redmond does expect to acquire about 20 companies—from $50 million to $1 billion—every year for the next five years, including companies that use open-source software, he said.

“We have a great partnership with Facebook on the advertising front. We love Facebook and we’ll see where that takes us,” was all that Ballmer would say with regard to a potential acquisition.

Asked if it was making money from the Facebook deal, Ballmer evaded the question by saying the rumor was that it was not. “But we are learning more and more every day and I am delighted about where we are and what we are learning,” he said.

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With regards to Yahoo, Ballmer said it was a great company and Microsoft had a good, constructive relationship with it. He also acknowledged that many people assumed that because “the No. 1 player [Google] is so much bigger than No. 2 and 3, it makes sense for a couple of them to join together.”

But Microsoft believed in its path of independence “and we really like what we are doing. At some point maybe it [a merger/acquisition] would make sense, but that’s not where we are going,” he said.

After shelling out $6 billion in cash to buy aQuantive, which owns interactive ad agency Avenue A RazorFish, Ballmer said “there are not many potential acquisitions in the $6 billion to $15 billion range, and on all of those that there are, I will say no comment.”

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