Is Q1 the one for IBM?

Contact: Brenon Daly, Andrew Hay

Despite posturing for a public market debut for some time, we understand that Q1 Labs may instead be headed for a trade sale. IBM is reportedly set to acquire the fast-growing ESIM vendor in a deal to be announced this week. The price for Q1, which recorded sales of some $60m over the past four quarters, couldn’t be learned. Goldman Sachs was in line to be lead underwriter for the IPO but instead will get the print, according to our understanding.

Assuming it closes, the deal would come almost exactly a year after ESIM kingpin ArcSight sold to Hewlett-Packard. (In that process, we gather that IBM was a bidder for ArcSight through the late rounds, as was EMC. McAfee was interested as well but was priced out relatively early on.) HP paid roughly 8 times trailing sales for ArcSight. Slapping that same multiple on Q1 values the Waltham, Massachusetts-based company at nearly a half-billion dollars. IBM had paid a similar multiple for Netezza and BigFix and only a slightly lower one in its most recent significant security acquisition, Guardium.

Rumors about a possible sale of Q1 have swirled for a number of years, with suitors ranging from Cisco to Oracle to McAfee. However, the most consistent name attached to Q1 has been its largest OEM partner, Juniper Networks. Indeed, sources indicated earlier this year that Juniper was considering an acquisition but a wide gap emerged over the valuation. Apparently, Juniper was offering about $300m, while Q1 was holding out for a number significantly higher than that.

Maybe M&A for McAfee?

Contact: Brenon Daly, Andrew Hay

With the ink barely dry on the M&A papers of SolarWinds’ purchase of TriGeo, we understand that another deal in the enterprise security information management (ESIM) market may be already in the works. Several industry sources have indicated that McAfee and NitroSecurity are thought to be close to an agreement that would give Intel’s subsidiary a solid ESIM offering.

McAfee has been looking in this market for some time. We gather that the company lobbed a bid (thought be in the neighborhood of $600m) for ESIM kingpin ArcSight before that company went public in February 2008. More recently, we weren’t surprised to hear that McAfee was in the process early for ArcSight last summer but got outbid by Hewlett-Packard, which ended up paying $1.65bn, or a steep 8 times trailing revenue for ArcSight.

If the acquisition indeed comes together, NitroSecurity would make a great deal of sense for McAfee. NitroSecurity, which we understand is running at about $40m in revenue, sells big-ticket installations to enterprises and the federal government – a market that McAfee clearly wants to be in. (NitroSecurity is also one of the few security vendors that has been able to crack into the industrial control system market, which gives the company a shot at lucrative contracts securing some of the nation’s critical infrastructure.)

The only other ESIM provider of size that might also give McAfee a comparable presence in the enterprise market would be Q1 Labs. However, that firm has a deep relationship with Juniper Networks, which is its single largest OEM partner. Nonetheless, Q1 has ascribed itself a fairly rich valuation, according to sources. The market may well soon have its vote on that, as Q1 recently indicated that it is looking toward an IPO.