By Brenon Daly
Google (GOOG) didn’t have to reach too deep to fatten its patent portfolio as it also becomes one of the few vertically integrated smartphone and tablet makers. Sure, it will have to hand over $12.5bn in cash for Motorola Mobility to cover its planned purchase of the hardware manufacturer. But it will immediately get back some $3bn in cash from Motorola Mobility (MMI), as well as an undisclosed amount of tax advantages that can be used to lower the amount of taxes that the wildly profitable search giant will face in the future. Even setting aside the very real tax breaks, Google is on the hook for just $9.5bn for Motorola Mobility.
The enterprise value of $9.5bn works out to just 0.75 times the $12.7bn of revenue that Motorola Mobility has generated over the past four quarters. That’s less than half the median valuation (1.8x trailing sales) of all tech transactions announced so far this year, according to our calculations. Further, it’s just one-third the multiple of 2.2x trailing sales that we calculated for the 50 largest deals (by equity value) so far this year.
More relevant, it’s half a turn less than Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) paid in 2010 to bolster its integrated mobile strategy. Last April, HP paid $1.4bn for Palm Inc. in a transaction that valued the struggling company at some 1.1x sales. (And we could certainly make the case that Motorola Mobility is in better financial shape than Palm, which was burning cash amid a dramatic sales slowdown.) Another way to look at it: Google’s bid values Motorola Mobility only slightly above the current market multiple for fellow mobile device vendor Research In Motion (RIMM). But then, we should add that shares in the Blackberry maker are currently changing hands at their lowest level in a half-decade.