Starent gets a bit more pop than most Cisco buys

Contact: Brenon Daly

Announcing its second multibillion-dollar acquisition in as many weeks, Cisco Systems said Tuesday that it will hand over $2.9bn in cash for Starent Networks. The pickup comes just after the networking giant’s reach across the Atlantic for Norwegian videoconferencing vendor Tandberg. Cisco is paying $3bn in cash for Tandberg. Both of the October purchases are expected to close in the first half of 2010.

As many echoes as there are between this pair of recent deals, there’s one significant difference: Cisco is paying a premium on Starent’s stock price that’s substantially higher than what it paid for Tandberg. In fact, Cisco is paying nearly twice the premium for Starent than it has paid in its other recent purchases of public companies. The bid of $35 for each Starent share represents a 42% premium over the closing price 30 days ago for shares of the wireless infrastructure provider. That compares to a 27% premium for Tandberg, a 21% premium for WebEx Communications and a 23% premium for Scientific-Atlanta. (All of those calculations are based on the closing prices of the shares of the target 30 days prior to the acquisition, which we feel is a more accurate snapshot of the company than the previous day’s closing price.)

And a final echo in today’s acquisition of previous Cisco deals: the advisers. Barclays Capital worked for Cisco, while Goldman Sachs Group banked Starent. That’s the same banks on the same sides as Cisco’s pickup of WebEx two-and-a-half years ago. Of course, that was before Barclays acquired Lehman Brothers, which actually got the print.