Trapeze’s long road to an obvious home

Contact: Brenon Daly

Two and a half years after a head-scratching sale to an unexpected buyer, Trapeze Networks has finally landed where it pretty much should have gone in the first place: Juniper Networks. The networking giant said Tuesday that it will hand over $152m in cash for the WLAN gear maker, with the deal expected to close before the end of the year. The price is actually $19m (or 14%) higher than Trapeze fetched in its sale in June 2008 to Belden. (That’s a reversal from most divestitures, which typically return dimes on the dollar compared to the original acquisition price.)

Trapeze’s combination with Belden was a bit puzzling from the start, so it’s not surprising to see the company, which is primarily known for its wiring products, unwind its purchase of a wireless vendor. In fact, it’s only surprising that Trapeze went through a period of ownership at a company other than Juniper. After all, Juniper had an OEM arrangement with Trapeze and even put money into the startup’s series D round of funding. We gather that Juniper was close to taking home Trapeze before it sold to Belden, but the two partners got snagged on a final price.

Since Trapeze sold for the first time, there have been a handful of exits for other WLAN providers. Most notably, Colubris Networks got snapped up by Hewlett-Packard and Meru Networks actually made it to the Nasdaq. Meru went public at $15 per share, which has been basically the midpoint of its trading range since its debut in late March. The stock also currently trades at about $15, giving Meru an equity value of roughly $240m, or about three times 2010 sales. Incidentally, Bank of America Merrill Lynch both led Meru’s offering and advised Juniper on its pickup of Trapeze.