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.

North of the border disorder

Contact: Brenon Daly

The ‘storm’ caused by Research in Motion’s ‘bold’ play for Certicom looks likely to linger a bit longer. The Blackberry maker originally launched its unsolicited offer for Certicom a month ago, but the cryptography vendor has nixed it. (Certicom also lined up TD Securities to help it fend off the unwanted attention from the fellow Canadian company.) RIM’s bid, which values Certicom at some $52m, was originally slated to expire next week but has been extended through the end of the month.

With this unsolicited offer, RIM joins a growing list of big-name tech firms that have used this once-taboo M&A strategy. Over the past year, firms using unsolicited offers include Microsoft, EMC, Electronic Arts and Cadence Design Systems, among others. If RIM does manage to secure Certicom, it will mark the company’s second recent deal, after some two years out of the market.

Recent Research in Motion deals

Date Target Deal value Rationale
December 2008 Chalk Media $18.4m Mobile content
December 2008 (announced) Certicom $53.2m Encryption
November 2006 Epoch Integration Not disclosed Network management
March 2006 Ascendent Systems $14m* VoIP networking

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase *451 Group estimate