By Brendon Daly
From an investment banking perspective, both EqualLogic and 3PAR (PAR) started out and finished their lives in much the same way. The two storage vendors filed to go public within a week of one another back in August 2007, and – pending the close of 3PAR’s sale – both will end up inside Dell (DELL). Yet while the final destination is the same, the two vendors’ not-so-parallel tracks to Round Rock, Texas, underscore the fact that the tech M&A market, as well as the capital markets, still have a long way to go to recover from the Credit Crisis.
Consider this: In the sale announced Monday, 3PAR garnered just half the multiple that fellow storage vendor EqualLogic got in its sale to the same buyer, at least based on one key metric. 3PAR sold for 5.6 times trailing sales, while EqualLogic went for 12x trailing sales. We would chalk up the eye-popping premium for EqualLogic mostly to the fact that Dell had to effectively outbid the public market to prevent the company from going public. More to the point, Dell had to outbid a bull market, as the Nasdaq had tacked on 20% in the year leading up to its purchase of EqualLogic in November 2007.
As any company – including 3PAR and Dell – can attest, the bull market ended abruptly and painfully just days after the EqualLogic trade sale. So now we’re left with a market where Dell can offer the highest-ever price for 3PAR shares (representing a staggering 87% premium) and still get a ‘half-off discount’ on valuation compared to its earlier billion-dollar storage deal. But then Dell knows all about discounts over that time period. The company’s market cap has been cut in half (to $25bn from $50bn) from the day it announced its EqualLogic acquisition to Monday’s announcement of the 3PAR purchase.