Advisors in EMC-Data Domain: a chorus and a solo

Contact: Brenon Daly

It’s often said that there are three types of falsehoods: lies, damn lies and statistics. To that list, we might be tempted to add a fourth category: league tables. That’s in the front of our minds because we just put together our mid-2009 update to the rankings of the busiest tech banks. (For those curious, Credit Suisse Securities took the top honor, with more deals and more dollars advised than any other bank. Banc of America Securities and JP Morgan Securities rounded out the podium.)

To be clear, we’re not saying that banks make up deal credits. Instead, we’re just noting that the credits, like statistics, may be more malleable than most people think. As we tally the transactions to come up with our rankings, there are invariably deals that smack of a little gamesmanship. In this case, it’s the chorus of advisers for EMC in the storage giant’s purchase of Data Domain. No fewer than eight banks – ranging from bulge brackets to a high-end boutique to even a midmarket firm – are all claiming credit for EMC. (We confirmed, indirectly, with EMC that each of the banks did indeed play a role in the acquisition.)

Meanwhile, on the other side, boutique advisory firm Qatalyst Group took sole credit for working the sell-side for Data Domain. Some observers initially dinged Frank Quattrone’s shop for running such a narrow process. (We understand, for instance, that EMC didn’t see the initial book on Data Domain when NetApp was preparing its bid.) Whether that’s the case or not is largely academic at this point, since the transaction closed a week ago. And it’s largely irrelevant, given where the deal was ultimately done. Data Domain enjoyed the richest price-to-revenue multiple in the sale of a US public company since March 2008.

UPDATE: After initially publishing this piece, Bank of America Merrill Lynch reached out to us to say that they, too, should have a deal credit for advising EMC. For those of you keeping score at home, that brings the total number of advisors for EMC, which was working to land Data Domain for all of two months, to nine separate banks.

With Data Domain done, what’s next for NetApp?

Contact: Brenon Daly, Simon Robinson

Data Domain was originally slated to report second-quarter earnings later this afternoon. Instead, the data de-duplication specialist is done as as an independent company, with the acquisition by EMC for the princely sum of $2.3bn closing today. The deal looks even ‘princelier’ when we consider the markdown M&A that we’ve been seeing recently. In fact, EMC’s bid values Data Domain at 7.4 times its trailing 12-month (TTM) revenue. That’s the richest multiple paid for a US public company since March 2008, when Ansys paid 8.2 times TTM sales for Ansoft.

Assuming the deal does indeed go through as expected, we wonder what will happen with the vendor that originally put Data Domain in play, NetApp. Certainly, the proposed pairing, which was approved by the boards at both firms, would have been a boost for NetApp. The storage system giant could certainly benefit from a midrange de-dupe product to serve customers beyond its existing base, which is precisely what Data Domain would have provided. The head of our storage practice, Simon Robinson, recently speculated that NetApp may well target other de-dupe providers. None of the potential candidates appears to fit as cleanly into NetApp as Data Domain would have, but there are nonetheless cases to be made for both CommVault and ExaGrid Systems.

While CommVault does indeed offer de-dupe technology, its backup software would pose a tricky integration challenge for NetApp, which sells appliances as an alternative to traditional backup software. (Keep in mind, too, that NetApp’s M&A track record hardly inspires confidence.) Meanwhile, ExaGrid is a company that in many ways has shaped itself in the image of Data Domain, albeit while selling de-dupe appliances. Buying ExaGrid wouldn’t bring NetApp the same heft as picking up Data Domain, but it would fit nicely into its focus on the SME market. If nothing else, NetApp could put some of the windfall of the $57m breakup fee that it received from the Data Domain deal toward another de-dupe move.

Is Riverbed the next Data Domain?

Contact: Brenon Daly

With Data Domain off the market, we did a bit of blue-sky thinking about which company might find itself snapped up in a similar scenario. Our pick? Riverbed Technology. We’re not suggesting that the vendor is in play by any means, but hear us out on this one.

For starters, both Data Domain and Riverbed are fast-growing, single-product companies in markets that are dominated by mature technology vendors that have deep pockets and are hungry for growth. In the case of Data Domain it’s the storage market, while for Riverbed it’s the networking market. (To put some numbers around the differences, consider that Data Domain more than doubled its revenue in 2008, while its acquirer, EMC, saw storage revenue inch up just 10% last year.)

The obvious buyer of Riverbed would be Cisco. That’s so obvious, in fact, that we heard Cisco made at least two overtures to Riverbed before the company went public in September 2006. (However, one source characterized Cisco’s interest more as ‘industrial espionage’ than acquisition negotiations.) So we don’t see Riverbed going to Cisco. Instead, we like Hewlett-Packard as the acquirer of Riverbed.

The two companies have been friendly for years. HP originally had an OEM deal with Riverbed, and later resold the Riverbed product. HP has also integrated the Riverbed Optimization Software into its ProCurve infrastructure. To be clear, we’re not suggesting that there’s anything more than technology talks between the two sides right now. But if HP wanted to bolster ProCurve, picking up Riverbed would do that. Plus, such a deal could help HP stick it to Cisco, which took a swipe at HP earlier this year by jumping into the server market. Maybe HP is interested in countering with a big buy into one of the fastest-growing segments of the networking market.

Data Domain: Battle at Centre Court

Contact: Brenon Daly

A long, drawn-out battle – with back-and-forth volleying – to claim a coveted prize. We could be talking about the amazing men’s final at Wimbledon over the weekend, but since we’re back in the office, we’re actually referring to the ongoing fight over Data Domain. On Monday, EMC served up what it hopes will be an ace. It raised its existing all-cash offer for the data de-duplication specialist to $33.50 per share.

EMC’s latest bid values Data Domain at roughly $2.3bn, richer than its previous offer as well as the one from original suitor NetApp. Recall that NetApp served first, offering $1.75bn in cash and stock for Data Domain on May 20. EMC returned that with a $2.1bn bid of its own a week and a half later. And now, EMC has knocked a shot that, honestly, we feel NetApp will have trouble stretching to get. Our view: Advantage EMC.

A ‘feature rich’ bidding war for Data Domain

Contact: Brenon Daly

A multibillion-dollar bidding war over a technological feature? As crazy as it sounds, that’s one way to look at the contested effort to acquire Data Domain. (Obviously, the company offers much more than the data de-duplication technology that it’s known for. But some rivals – and even one of its current suitors – have nonetheless dismissed Data Domain as a ‘feature’ in the past.) EMC on Monday topped NetApp’s two-week-old agreement to pick up Data Domain.

Even though EMC raised the bid on Data Domain to $30 in cash for each share, the market is clearly expecting more. In mid-afternoon trading Tuesday, Data Domain shares were changing hands at $31.27 – roughly 4% above EMC’s offer. NetApp, which originally offered $25 in cash and stock for each share of Data Domain, hasn’t yet responded to EMC’s move. (As an aside, the bid-and-raise for Data Domain came just hours after we noted bidding wars for two other public companies.)

EMC entering the fray for Data Domain isn’t surprising. According to its offer to purchase the company filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, EMC planned to discuss an acquisition with Data Domain in early May, but the target cancelled the meeting. Only a few days later, NetApp, which is being banked by Goldman Sachs, announced its bid for Data Domain, advised by Qatalyst Partners. At this point, EMC hasn’t formally retained a banker to advise it on landing Data Domain (much to the dismay of fee-hungry bankers everywhere). Incidentally, speaking of Qatalyst, the boutique officially announced that it has hired former Goldman Sachs software banker Ian Macleod, which we heard about more than two months ago.