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Ballmer sells portion of Microsoft stock

First sale in seven years due to 'diversification and tax planning'

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has sold $1.3bn (£800m) worth of his Microsoft shares, the first stock he's shed in seven years, but insists that it's no reason for investors to worry.

The stock sale, which still leaves Mr Ballmer holding 359 million shares - worth $9.6bn at current prices - is apparently being made to enable the CEO to exhibit some financial diversity and plan for tax payments.

"Even though this is a personal financial matter, I want to be clear about this to avoid any confusion," Ballmer said in an official statement. "I am excited about our new products and the potential for our technology to change people's lives, and I remain fully committed to Microsoft and its success."

According to that statement, Mr Ballmer plans to sell 75 million of his shares by the year's end.

Microsoft has set its entertainment division's financial sights high after Don Mattrick predicted five million Kinect sales this quarter, and a healthy financial report for Xbox this year.

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Dan Pearson