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Article from SF Gate.

“Hewlett-Packard Co., Oracle Corp. and IBM Corp. are leading an acquisition spree that has propelled the value of U.S. technology deals 24 percent to more than $50 billion this year and broken down decades-old barriers between industries.

The companies are using purchases to become one-stop providers of products from computers to software to networking gear, rather than focusing on a niche. A plunge in computing-industry stocks last week, spurred by concerns that demand is slowing, makes some companies more affordable.

HP, Oracle, IBM, Cisco Systems Inc. and Dell Inc., with a collective $100 billion in cash, have said they plan to keep making acquisitions. Buyers will probably scoop up targets in areas such as storage, software and security, helping them cater to corporate customers building data centers to handle a Web traffic boom, said Charles King, principal analyst at research firm Pund-IT in Hayward.

“A lot of tech leaders are repositioning themselves,” said Drago Rajkovic, head of technology mergers at Barclays Capital in Menlo Park. “Tech merger and acquisition activity is going to remain very strong this year and going into next year.”

Companies have announced $51.9 billion worth of technology and Internet takeovers in the United States this year, up from $41.8 billion in the same period in 2009, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The buyers are pursuing a vision of cloud computing, which lets customers store their software in massive data centers, rather than in the computer room down the hall. Record low borrowing costs have helped spur the deals.

To build up its data-center technology, Hewlett-Packard agreed to spend $2.35 billion last month for the money-losing Fremont storage maker 3Par Inc., after an 18-day bidding war with Dell more than tripled 3Par’s stock price. Shares of other potential targets, such as Riverbed Technology Inc., Isilon Systems Inc. and Fortinet Inc., have each climbed more than 25 percent since the bidding for 3Par was made public.

Project California

Cisco’s expansion into computing hardware has put pressure on HP, IBM and Dell, the leaders in that industry, to respond. Cisco, the world’s biggest maker of networking equipment, introduced its own line of servers in March 2009. The effort, originally code-named Project California, is beginning to gain acceptance from big customers, says Dominic Orr, chief executive officer of one of Cisco’s networking rivals, Aruba Networks Inc.

“That’s creating a lot of nervousness,” Orr said. “Nobody wants to be Californicated by Cisco.”

The acquisitions are a boon to the largest investment banks. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has advised companies in more than 30 percent of U.S. technology deals this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Morgan Stanley and Barclays Capital ranked second and third.

The price HP paid for 3Par was about 10 times the company’s revenue over the past four quarters. The premium reflected a growing urgency to use acquisitions to fuel growth and underscores the dearth of affordable runners-up.

“The public markets are pricing in premiums that, frankly, are going to prevent some deals from happening,” Cisco Senior Vice President Ned Hooper, who handles corporate business development, said. “The companies that are winning in the market are responsible players.”

Oracle, the world’s second-largest software company, snapped up almost 70 companies in the past five years. In January, it bought Sun Microsystems Inc., marking a foray into computer hardware. Last month, it used the acquisition to introduce high-end servers designed to run Oracle programs faster than competing machines.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has pledged to acquire more hardware companies, especially in the chip area. While HP and Dell use processors from Intel Corp. in their servers, Oracle plans to build out Sun’s proprietary chip technology.”
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Here is an article from Seeking Alpha.

“Having watched at least three of its rivals get acquired in recent years, Meru Networks is now aiming for the other exit: a public offering. The WLAN equipment maker filed its IPO paperwork on Friday for an $86m offering to be led by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, with co-managers Robert W. Baird & Co, Cowen & Co, JMP Securities and ThinkEquity. Meru plans to trade on the NYSE under the ticker MERU. (Incidentally, the company was one we put on our list of IPO candidates for 2010 in our recently published 2010 M&A Outlook – Security and networks.)

If Meru does manage to make it onto the public market, it will reverse the flow of deals in the sector. In recent years, a large publicly traded rival (Symbol Technologies (SBL)) and two other competing startups (Colubris Networks and Trapeze Networks) have all been acquired. Those trade sales have valued the WLAN equipment vendors at a range of 2.1-3x trailing 12-month (TTM) sales.

We noted a year and a half ago that all of the transactions probably meant that Meru would have trouble finding a buyer, except among public market investors. Not that Meru hasn’t kicked around a possible sale in the past. Rumors have tied it to both Juniper Networks (JNPR) and Foundry. The Foundry relationship seems to have died off since Foundry sold to Brocade Communications (BRCD). According to Meru’s S-1, Foundry/Brocade accounted for a full 35% of its revenue in 2007, but that level has fallen to less than 10% now.

With Meru aiming to hit the market in 2010, we suspect that it will be hoping to have a stronger offering than publicly traded rival Aruba Networks (ARUN), which initially priced its shares in its March 2007 offering at $11 each. Although Aruba traded above the offer price for almost a year, it broke issue in February 2008 and has not traded above the initial price since then. That said, the stock is nearing that level, changing hands at about $10.65 in midday trading Tuesday. It has more than quadrupled in 2009. The dramatic rebound in Aruba shares has pushed the firm’s valuation to 4.6x TTM sales. Applying that same multiple to Meru’s $67m TTM sales gives the company a valuation of about $310m.”

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