By Michael Kanellos
The shopping spree in the smart grid and electrical infrastructure market continued today with an offer from France's Schneider Electric (OTCPK:SBGSF) to buy Telvent (NASDAQ:TLVT), which offers real-time monitoring services and other technology to utilities, for $2 billion.
Abengoa (OTCPK:ABGOY), which owns 40 percent of Telvent, has signed off on the deal, which is priced at a 16 percent premium.
Few weeks seem to go by these days without a large purchase from ABB, Schneider Electric or GE. What's driving it? Utilities and industrial conglomerates want to buy from established partners. Schneider fits that goal: It was founded in the middle of the 19th century in France during the era of Napoleon III. At the same time, a wide swath of large, mid-sized and startup companies have technology that could help. A marriage of account management and technology, in other words. This has been the biggest trend of 2011.
While many of the recent purchases have involved small, emerging companies, Telvent is not a startup by any means. Revenue came to 168 million euros in the first quarter. It is publicly held.
ABB's purchases have been more widespread: The company has snapped up motor makers as well as software providers. Schneider is mostly concerned with power delivery and efficient power consumption. Demand response, building management and grid functionality will all blend into one, argued Schneider North America CEO Chris Curtis in an interview with us in November.
Schneider's purchases in many ways reflect those concerns. Earlier this week, Schneider bought 74 percent of Luminous Technologies, a maker of power storage equipment and inverters from India. In April, Schneider bought Lee Technologies, a data center equipment company with $140 million in annual revenue. (Years earlier, Schneider bought power supply kings APC.) In April, it also bought SmartLink Network Systems, an Indian company that specializes in cabling, for $112 million. A few days before that, Schneider bought consulting and energy management firm Summit Energy for $268 million. In December, it bought two building management startups in France.
ABB, meanwhile, recently took a controlling stake in Validus, which makes DC power equipment, and bought Mincom, which makes mining software. Many of ABB's acquisitions come through its Ventyx subsidiary, a company it bought a little over a year ago for $1 billion. Additionally, Toshiba (OTCPK:TOSBF) bought smart meter maker Landis + Gyr for $2 billion in May.
The only member of the Four Horsemen of the Smart Grid (ABB, Schneider, GE, and Siemens (SI) that's been relatively silent lately is Siemens. We predicted that it could possibly buy SmartSynch, but that's pure speculation.