Tech Industry

Microsoft walks $200 billion line

Microsoft joins GE as the only other company on Wall Street with a market capitalization of more than $200 billion--before sliding to $199.9 billion.

Watch out General Electric (GE). Bill Gates and his troops at Microsoft (MSFT) are knocking on the door of the $200-billion "market cap" club.

In another sign of high-tech's growing clout, "20-something"-year-old Microsoft today joined GE--which traces its origins back to Thomas Edison in 1878--as the only other company on Wall Street with a market capitalization of more than $200 billion. By the end of trading, however, Microsoft slid to the $199.9 billion mark.

The software giant's stock hit a 52-week high of 84-15/16 early today, but fell to 82-1/8 by the close of trading, up 1/2 point from yesterday. GE fell 15/16, to 76-3/4, but its market value still stood at $251.2 billion. (Figures were compiled from Bloomberg).

Another high-tech stock is making headway toward the $200-billion mark as well: Intel, which today achieved a market value of $151.1 billion. The chip giant's stock is up 31.5 percent this year.

Microsoft's stock has risen 27 percent for the year based on bullishness about the company's growth prospects, despite a high-profile regulatory investigation into alleged monopolistic practices. Microsoft denies any wrongdoing.

The run-up in Microsoft's stock is a coup for the company's rank-and-file, as well as for billionaire chairman and CEO Gates. His worth is estimated at more than $40 billion.

Joining the $200 billion club also gives Gates bragging rights (if he wants them) over his friend and bridge-playing buddy Warren Buffett.

Buffett, known as the nation's second-richest man behind Gates, is a significant stakeholder in Coca-Cola. Last summer, Microsoft zoomed past Coke as the second-most valuable public company. Coke's market value now stands at $168.9 billion, and Intel is nipping at its heels. Buffett typically has shied away from technology stocks, but by now he's no doubt paying attention to their returns.

In contrast to Microsoft's and Intel's double-digit gain, Coke's shares have risen 2.4 percent this year, compared with 4.6 percent for GE.