Is Q1 the one for IBM?

Contact: Brenon Daly, Andrew Hay

Despite posturing for a public market debut for some time, we understand that Q1 Labs may instead be headed for a trade sale. IBM is reportedly set to acquire the fast-growing ESIM vendor in a deal to be announced this week. The price for Q1, which recorded sales of some $60m over the past four quarters, couldn’t be learned. Goldman Sachs was in line to be lead underwriter for the IPO but instead will get the print, according to our understanding.

Assuming it closes, the deal would come almost exactly a year after ESIM kingpin ArcSight sold to Hewlett-Packard. (In that process, we gather that IBM was a bidder for ArcSight through the late rounds, as was EMC. McAfee was interested as well but was priced out relatively early on.) HP paid roughly 8 times trailing sales for ArcSight. Slapping that same multiple on Q1 values the Waltham, Massachusetts-based company at nearly a half-billion dollars. IBM had paid a similar multiple for Netezza and BigFix and only a slightly lower one in its most recent significant security acquisition, Guardium.

Rumors about a possible sale of Q1 have swirled for a number of years, with suitors ranging from Cisco to Oracle to McAfee. However, the most consistent name attached to Q1 has been its largest OEM partner, Juniper Networks. Indeed, sources indicated earlier this year that Juniper was considering an acquisition but a wide gap emerged over the valuation. Apparently, Juniper was offering about $300m, while Q1 was holding out for a number significantly higher than that.