Tech M&A's Hopeful Week

by: The Deal Economy

Following a week of what can almost be described as a frenzy of tech dealmaking, at least in relative terms, it's starting to look like the second quarter might just mark a turning point for M&A.

As we noted in a story in the latest issue of The Deal magazine, tech dealmakers, ranging from Charles Carmel at Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ:CSCO) to M&A bankers, are getting a bit more optimistic.

"These are signals that buyers are feeling more confident about their businesses," one tech M&A banker said Friday in summing up the busy week. "We hadn't seen that for six months."

And what a week it was. We spilled a lot of ink about storage giant EMC Corp.'s (NASDAQ:EMC) fight for Data Domain Inc. (NASDAQ:DDUP), which originally agreed to be acquired by EMC rival NetApp Inc. (NASDAQ:NTAP) for $1.5 billion, or $25 per share, on May 20. EMC jumped in with an unsolicited, $30 per share all-cash offer on Monday; NetApp countered Wednesday with a matching bid composed of a mix of stock and cash. Data Domain later Wednesday signed NetApp's sweetened agreement, but it said Thursday it is reviewing EMC's offer and will comment on it by June 16.

Accounting software maker Intuit Inc. (NASDAQ:INTU) snuck in a deal of its own Tuesday, announcing that it would buy PayCycle Inc., an online payroll service provider for small businesses, for $175 million. Intuit had been relatively quiet on the M&A front.

Another company that broke a long silence, at least in terms of big-time deals, was Intel Corp. (NASDAQ:INTC). The company caught many by surprise Thursday by announcing the purchase of Wind River Systems Inc. (NASDAQ:WIND) for $844 million, the chipmaker's biggest deal since 1999 when it bought networking technology company Level One Communications for $2.2 billion. Wind River makes embedded operating systems for a range of devices, and Intel wants to use the deal to help it expand beyond PCs and servers.

Finally, not every tech deal story involve friendly dealmaking as the bickering between chipmaker Broadcom Corp. (NASDAQ:BRCM) and its unwilling takeover target Emulex Corp. (NYSE:ELX) continued unabated this week. Broadcom on May 5 launched an unsolicited, $764 million tender offer for Emulex, which has balked, arguing that Broadcom is low-balling its shareholders and that the company would be better off remaining independent.

On Wednesday, Broadcom issued a long list of arguments as to why the deal makes sense and urged Emulex shareholders to allow a special meeting to give them "the opportunity to consider their choices." Emulex fired back, calling Broadcom's statements "self-serving and misleading." Also on Thursday, Broadcom extended its tender offer until June 17.

In talking to one semiconductor-focused M&A banker, we wondered aloud whether Emulex might seek a white knight. One possible candidate would be Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (NASDAQ:MRVL), but the chipmaker wouldn't likely prevail in a fight against Broadcom. Besides, it seems pretty clear that Emulex really does want to stay independent.

It's a risky gambit. Emulex has argued that its growth prospects will enable it to provide a better return to shareholders than the Broadcom offer would. It's a similar argument to one put up by Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) in its fight last year against an acquisition by Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ:MSFT). And it could have similar results.

"It is very dangerous to use growth as a defense mechanism," the banker said. "You might just find yourself Jerry Yang-ed right out of your seat." - Olaf de Senerpont Domis