Emulex goes from defense to offense

Contact: Brenon Daly

This time a year ago, Emulex was stiff-arming an unwelcome suitor. Now, it is warmly embracing another company. Emulex said Monday that it will acquire ServerEngines for $159m in cash and stock.

It will hand over about $78m in cash and eight million shares, which were valued at $81m based on Emulex’s closing price ahead of the announcement. The deal, which is expected to close in July, also has a possible earnout of four million shares that would be paid over the next two years. (While the terms are fairly straightforward, it does have one surprising agreement: a $10m breakup fee, representing a fairly steep 6% of the deal value.)

Emulex’s purchase of its partner comes a year after the vendor fended off an unsolicited bid from larger rival Broadcom. The fight between the two Southern California companies turned particularly nasty during the two-and-half-month process, which ended last July after Emulex’s board shot down Broadcom’s offer for a second time. (For the record, shares of Emulex trade at roughly the level of Broadcom’s first offer but 14% below its topping bid.) The two companies are still battling it out in the courtroom over alleged patent infringement.

As a final thought, we would note that Emulex’s contentious relationship with Broadcom is probably not an unknown feeling at the firm that it just acquired, ServerEngines. A decade ago, the CEO of SeverEngines, Raju Vegesna, sold his previous company ServerWorks to Broadcom for $1.8bn. He left two years later after a fallout with Broadcom leadership over the strategic direction of the business.

Broadcom-Emulex: Failure rewarded?

Contact: Brenon Daly

Is this a case of the market rewarding failure? Since Broadcom unveiled its now-aborted bid for Emulex, shares of both companies have outperformed the Nasdaq. That bull run stands in sharp contrast to the performance of firms that have been involved in other unsolicited efforts, as we noted when Broadcom first started squeezing Emulex. Broadcom took its unsolicited offer public for its fellow southern California-based vendor on April 21. Initially, Broadcom was set to hand over $9.25 in cash for each share of Emulex, although last week it bumped the bid up to $11 per share. That’s not a bad premium for Emulex, which had spent much of the year trading at around $6.

Of course, it’s not surprising that Emulex shares would be trading higher, given the ‘floor’ valuation that Broadcom put on the company. (On Friday morning, Emulex stock was changing hands at around $9, just slightly below Broadcom’s opening bid.) On the other side, Broadcom stock has slightly outperformed the broader market over the two and a half months that it has been trying to land Emulex. On Thursday, Broadcom gave up its effort. In a brief release explaining the abandoned bid, Broadcom CEO Scott McGregor said the company would now look at other ‘value-creating alternatives.’ Like, say, an unsolicited run at another company?

M&A rumors follow reality

Contact: Brenon Daly

There’s yet more proof that the M&A market is back. No, we’re not talking about the fact that April boasted the highest monthly deal spending since June, with some $21bn worth of announced transactions. We’re referring to something that’s far less quantitative: deal whispers.

Indeed, the traffic in M&A rumors has grown substantially in recent weeks, and many big names are popping up. It may just be a byproduct of the resurgent Nasdaq, which has risen one-quarter in value over the past two months. But it’s nonetheless worth noting that there’s M&A buzz once again, even if some of the gossip strikes us as highly unlikely.

For instance, last week saw reports of QLogic attracting interest from EMC. We have a hard time understanding why EMC would want to be a storage networking company, particularly when it’s been tightening its relationship with networking powerhouse Cisco Systems. Nonetheless, the market was kicking around that possible pairing as Broadcom was pushing its unsolicited offer for QLogic rival Emulex. (Of course, QLogic was in the market last week, but on the buy side. It picked up seven-year-old startup NetXen for $21m. QLogic says NetXen, which generated essentially no revenue over the past four quarters, will contribute $5m in sales in the coming year.)

And then there were whispers of a deal that we suspect is even more of a long shot: the word was that BMC may be looking to snag SolarWinds before the latter goes public. However, that rumored pairing seemed unlikely from the start. We wonder, for instance, how BMC, which targets big-ticket sales at large enterprises, would have much success selling SolarWinds’ inexpensive, downloadable software. (The average license sale at SolarWinds is less than $6,000.) Still, it’s worth noting that it has been some time since we heard the term ‘dual-track,’ even if that’s almost certainly not the case with SolarWinds.

Going it alone can be expensive

Contact: Brenon Daly, Henry Baltazar

Wall Street hasn’t been particularly supportive of tech companies that turn down unsolicited offers and opt to go it alone. Shares in a number of the targeted firms are currently changing hands at less than half the level that the would-be suitors were willing to pay for them. To wit: Microsoft was reportedly set to pay in the mid-$30s for each share of Yahoo, which is now trading in the mid-teens. And having spurned a $16-per-share unsolicited bid from Cadence Design Systems last summer, Mentor Graphics stock is now trading at about $7.

We mention that bit of cautionary history because there’s another showdown brewing. Broadcom, advised by Banc of America Securities, recently offered $9.25 for each share of Emulex, giving the unsolicited bid a total equity value of $764m. (As it often does, Goldman Sachs is advising the target.)

Broadcom’s bid values Emulex where it was trading last October. On an enterprise value basis, the proposed transaction values the maker of storage networking gear at just 1.2x its trailing 12-month (TTM) sales and 5.5x TTM EBITDA. Emulex investors want a richer valuation and have pushed the stock above $10 since the offer was unveiled. Broadcom has vowed to take the unsolicited bid directly to shareholders if the Emulex board rebuffs it. On its conference call Monday discussing fiscal third-quarter results, Emulex said only that it was ‘thoroughly’ reviewing Broadcom’s offer.

From Broadcom’s point of view, it’s understandable why it would want its fellow southern California-based company. If the deal goes through, Broadcom would get a foothold in a few interesting storage markets such as host bus adapters (for both standard servers and blade servers) and embedded storage processors for disk arrays. Broadcom sells Gigabit Ethernet and 10-Gigabit Ethernet products, but is not a player in the SAN market. With network convergence growing in popularity, Broadcom would also benefit from Emulex’s fiber channel technology and its new Fiber Channel over Ethernet adapters.