IBM and HP bag big game on M&A safari

Contact: Brenon Daly

With the news today that Hewlett-Packard is closing its recent pickup of Fortify Software, we wanted to take the opportunity to point out that the deal almost belongs in the minority of M&A moves HP has made so far this year. What are we talking about? Basically, that the tech giant has been doing giant deals. Of the seven acquisitions HP has announced so far in 2010, fully three of them have been valued at more than $1bn.

We noted in mid-April, which is before it inked any of its three 10-digit acquisitions, that HP had telegraphed to the market that it was going to do fewer transactions, but they were going to be bigger deals. (And we should add that its purchase of application security vendor Fortify wasn’t just a pocket-change deal. We understand that it paid $275m or so for the company.)

What’s interesting to note is that in the five months since we indicated that HP would be big-game hunting, one other company has joined it on safari: IBM. Big Blue has inked a pair of deals valued at more than $1bn since April – the pickup of AT&T’s Sterling Commerce business as well as Monday’s purchase of Netezza. Along the way, it has also done a steady flow of transactions valued at $150m-500.

Altogether, we calculate the tab for Big Blue’s five-month shopping spree at roughly $4.8bn for its nine acquisitions. (Incidentally, the amount of cash it spent is basically the same amount its business generated over that same period.) Meanwhile, HP spent about $1bn more ($5.8bn in disclosed or estimated deal values) on its seven purchases since mid-April. Taken together, these two companies have averaged about $2bn of M&A spending in each of the past five months. And they were sniping at each other about ‘buying’ R&D? Really?

M&A activity since mid-April 2010

Company Number of acquisitions Total M&A spending
HP 7 $5.8bn*
IBM 9 $4.8bn*

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase *Includes disclosed and estimated deal values