Sourcefire: No sale turns into a great deal

Contact: Brenon Daly

With Barracuda Networks looking to gobble up Austrian IT security vendor phion, we thought we’d look back on the other time the rapacious privately held firm eyed a public company. Last summer, Barracuda launched an unsolicited bid for Sourcefire, initially offering $7.50 per share but later raising that to $8.25. The bumped-up bid valued Sourcefire at roughly $215m, but that wasn’t enough for Sourcefire’s board of directors.

We’ve noted in the past that the decision by a company to go it alone can prove very costly to shareholders, at least in the near term. Removing the takeout premium and letting a company trade on its own fundamentals can end up crushing a stock. Recovering that lost ground can be a long and painful process. (Just ask shareholders of Yahoo and Mentor Graphics, who see shares in those companies changing hands these days at just half the level that suitors were willing to pay for them last year.)

However, it’s a completely different story for Sourcefire. It has actually turned out to be one of those rare cases where a target says a bid ‘undervalues’ the business and Wall Street agrees. After telling Barracuda to buzz off, Sourcefire shares got dragged down by the recession and traded below the bid until early April. But since then, the stock has surged to its highest level since the vendor went public in March 2007. Sourcefire shares are currently trading at about $20, or nearly 150% higher than the price Barracuda was willing to pay for them. Looked at another way, Sourcefire’s decision to stay independent has created more than $300m of additional value for its shareholders than the Barracuda bid would have delivered.