Intel: the latest tech giant to buy patents

Contact: Thejeswi Venkatesh

Intel has announced the acquisition of 190 patents, 170 patent applications and video codec software from RealNetworks for $120m. The transaction comes just eight months after Intel bought SiPort, a Santa Clara, California-based company that made audio-processing semiconductors. We see these moves as an indication that Intel wants to integrate more media and graphics capabilities into its chips, which these purchases should help with.

Barely three days ago, Intel inked a deal with QLogic to buy its InfiniBand business for $125m. That already makes Intel’s M&A spending for 2012 more than 60% of its full-year 2011 spending. What’s more, Intel was reportedly one of the bidders for InterDigital Communications, whose patent sale was called off earlier this week due to a gap in valuation expectations (InterDigital was reportedly looking for $3bn).

Patent sales have become one of the overarching themes of recent M&A activity, and one that we expect to continue throughout the year (see our 2012 M&A Outlook – Introduction for a full report). The reason for this is partly for offense (to expand a vendor’s existing product portfolio, like this Intel transaction) and partly for defense (as a hedge against a lawsuit, as is the case in Google’s reach for Motorola Mobility). The importance of these deals also registers on the other side of the transaction, the seller of the IP. Consider the contrast: Wall Street sent shares of RealNetworks soaring (up about 34%) on word that it had struck its deal with Intel, while it punished shares of InterDigital for not getting a sale done. InterDigital is currently trading at just half the level it was last summer.

Intel’s M&A activity

Fiscal year Deal volume Deal value
2011 11 $377m
2010 7 $9120m
2009 3 $884m
2008 3 $8m
2007 1 $110m

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase