The saga of Certicom’s sale

Contact:  Brenon Daly

After more than two months of bid and counterbid, the saga of the sale of Certicom appears to be nearing its close. In early December, fellow Canadian tech company Research in Motion tossed out a low-ball bid of $1.21 for each of the 43.7 million shares of Certicom. Overall, that valued the cryptography vendor at some $53m. We should hasten to add that RIM’s offer was unsolicited.

Certicom, along with adviser TD Securities, mulled over the offer for about three weeks before saying ‘thanks but no thanks’ to RIM. Undeterred, RIM kept its bid alive for the next month, before officially pulling it January 20. Three days after that, VeriSign stepped in with an offer of $1.67 for each Certicom share, or a total of $73m.

Just last week, RIM reentered the picture with a bid of $2.44 per share, or about $106m. (Viewed another way, RIM’s new offer values Certicom at exactly twice the level as its initial bid.) As part of the terms, VeriSign now has until Wednesday to up its offer or see Certicom go to RIM. (The deal carries a $4m breakup fee.)

Of course, there could always be a third suitor in the picture. If we had to pick one likely candidate, we might tap IBM. Last April, Big Blue inked a ‘multiyear, multimillion-dollar’ license agreement with Certicom, and has already handed over a $2m upfront payment.