Microsoft said on Monday it was acquiring LinkedIn in a $26.2 billion cash deal. The companies said that Microsoft had agreed to pay $196 a share to buy LinkedIn, a business social networking site that has more than 400 million members globally.

“The LinkedIn team has grown a fantastic business centered on connecting the world’s professionals,” Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive, said in a statement.

The companies said Reid Hoffman, a founder of LinkedIn and its controlling shareholder, had approved the deal, as did Jeff Weiner, the chief executive of LinkedIn. Mr. Weiner will remain chief executive of LinkedIn, which will operate as an independent brand, the companies said.

“Today is a re-founding moment for LinkedIn,” said Mr Hoffman.

LinkedIn shares had fallen by nearly half since a peak of almost $260 a share last fall and ended trading on Friday at $131.08.

It is by far the biggest acquisition made by Microsoft, which has completed eight takeovers worth more than $1bn.