One company’s trash is another company’s treasure

Contact: Brenon Daly

Corporate divestitures aren’t necessarily the castoffs they used to be. Increasingly, divisions that have outlived their usefulness inside large companies are getting shipped directly to other companies, bypassing the once-obligatory stop in a private equity (PE) portfolio. This trend of ‘strategic to strategic’ divestitures has been driven by dramatic changes in tech companies and their strategies – on both sides of the transactions.

On the ‘supply’ side, there have never been more divestitures by listed US tech companies than in 2015, according to 451 Research’s M&A KnowledgeBase. (See our full report on this year’s record level of activity.) Some tech companies – particularly those of a certain age – have sold off assets as part of a larger corporate reorganization. (For instance, Hewlett-Packard, which cleaved itself into two $50bn-revenue businesses in November, has shed five divisions this year – as many divestitures as it had done, collectively, over the previous half-decade, according to the KnowledgeBase.) In some cases, the push to divest has been sharpened by the ever-increasing agitation by activist hedge funds.

Meanwhile, on the ‘demand’ side, the fact that companies are dealing directly with other vendors on divestitures isn’t all that surprising when we consider how frequently they have been negotiating with each other on outright sales. (Consolidation, which corporate development executives told us in a survey last December would be the second-most-popular type of deal in 2015, is roughly akin to a scaled-out version of a divestiture.) Consolidation has reached an unprecedented level this year, with huge chunks of the IT landscape coming together.

Put that together, and publicly traded tech companies are increasingly finding themselves sitting across the negotiating table from other publicly traded companies. Carbonite, j2, CACI International, Raytheon, Trend Micro, Amdocs, Tangoe and others have all picked up businesses from fellow publicly traded companies in recent months, according to the KnowledgeBase.

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