A hoarse auctioneer for 3PAR?

Contact: Brenon Daly

The back-and-forth bidding for 3PAR moved higher again Friday, as the counteroffer to the counteroffer pushed the value of the high-end data storage vendor to $2bn. In the latest move, Hewlett-Packard lobbed a bid of $30 for each share of 3PAR, topping its offer from Thursday of $27 per share that had been matched by Dell. If 3PAR opts for HP’s bid, Dell has three days to come back with an offer of its own, according to terms. Dell, which opened the process 10 days ago with a bid of $18 per share, has already matched two efforts by HP to derail the deal.

As is pretty much always the case when would-be buyers with deep pockets go against each other, the price of the target company moves higher. (It’s fundamental supply-and-demand economics, after all.) Yet in the case of 3PAR, we’re not talking bids that are sweetened with a teaspoon or two of sugar – we’re talking cups of the stuff. (To recap the investment banks that are helping to advise their clients on how much sugar to dole out: Qatalyst Partners is banking 3PAR, while Credit Suisse Securities is banking Dell and JP Morgan Securities is banking HP.)

The latest offer values 3PAR at basically $830m higher than the opening takeout valuation, which was already the highest the storage company had ever seen. (In fact, Wall Street valued 3PAR at less than $800m before all this bidding started. Shares had basically bounced around $10 each for most of the year.) HP’s offer gives 3PAR an equity valuation of $2bn, two-thirds higher than Dell’s initial bid that gave it a $1.25bn equity valuation. For those wondering about the ‘price discipline’ at the two suitors, we would note that the going rate for 3PAR is now 10 times trailing sales.