Hey, big spender?

Contact: Brenon Daly

Given all the economic uncertainty, companies have made it clear that they’re not in the market for any big deals. (In our annual survey of corporate development officials, they indicated that they were least likely to pursue ‘transformative’ deals in 2009.) To put some numbers around that sentiment, we contrasted the shopping tab of four well-known tech companies in 2008 with the previous year’s tally.

The quartet we selected (IBM, SAP, Microsoft and Nokia) all announced the largest deals in their respective histories in 2007 so we naturally expected some drop-off in spending. But we were amazed at the steepness of the plunge. In 2007, the four companies announced 40 transactions with an aggregate value of $29.2bn. Last year, that dropped to 34 deals worth a paltry $4.7bn. (In fact, each of the firms inked a single transaction in 2007 that was worth more than 2008’s collective total.) And it’s not like they don’t have the resources to continue shopping. Over the past four quarters, IBM, SAP, Microsoft and Nokia have collectively generated an astounding $45bn in cash-flow operations.