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Article from SFGate.

“Three years from now, the data equivalent of every movie ever made will cross Internet networks every five minutes, according to Cisco Systems predictions. How to manage all that information is what will be driving technology mergers and acquisitions in 2012.

In a bid to transform that torrent into profits, a cash-rich industry is poised to surpass 2011’s almost $200 billion volume of announced mergers and acquisitions. Companies such as Cisco and IBM are searching for deals that will boost their capacity to provide new storage, analytics and security services to enterprise customers.

Big data, mobile and cloud technologies will lead to “bold investments and fateful decisions,” market research firm IDC said in a recent report. The volume of digital information may balloon from 2.7 zettabytes this year – the equivalent of filling 2.7 billion of Apple’s priciest iMacs to capacity – to 8 zettabytes by 2015, according to IDC.

“The speed at which technology innovation moves is such that you can’t miss a step,” said Jon Woodruff, the San Francisco co-head of technology investment banking at Goldman Sachs, the industry’s top adviser on deals last year. “Every tool has to be used for speed and nimbleness sake, and M&A is one of those significant tools.”

Abundant cash and investor pressure to jump-start sales growth will also propel deal-making. Cash levels have expanded 21 percent in the past year to $513 billion, based on holdings of the 35 companies that comprise the Morgan Stanley Technology Index.

Large companies will be leading the charge. Hewlett-Packard, Google and Microsoft led a 36 percent gain in technology deals last year, outpacing a 4.1 percent advance for all M&A worldwide.

In one of the biggest deals last year, HP agreed to buy Autonomy Corp. for $10.3 billion in a bid to build its software business and scale back on its PC manufacturing. Though viewed negatively by some investors, the move will enable Hewlett-Packard to offer database search services and other cloud-related services for business. CEO Meg Whitman said in November that the company doesn’t plan “large M&A” this year, though it may seek small software deals.

Cisco, which has made about 150 acquisitions in its history and has $44.4 billion in cash on the balance sheet, said in November that it will “continue to be aggressive in acquiring technologies.”

Bigger volume

“This year’s technology deal volume could be bigger than last year’s and 2007’s,” said Chet Bozdog, global head of technology investment banking at Bank of America.

Industry takeovers in 2007 reached $264.4 billion, the biggest year since 2000’s record high of $585.2 billion.

“Convergence between hardware, software and services will continue to add products to the same sales chains,” said Bozdog, who is based in Palo Alto.

Cloud computing, which allows companies to access information over the Internet from external data centers, and the shift from desktops to mobile devices, will continue to be “huge multiyear trends,” said Drago Rajkovic, head of technology mergers and acquisitions at JPMorgan Chase.

As part of this trend, SAP, the largest maker of business-management software, agreed to buy SuccessFactors for $3.4 billion in December to create a “cloud powerhouse,” co-CEO Bill McDermott said at the time.

Gaining patents

Google announced in August it would buy Motorola Mobility Holdings for $12.5 billion in its largest acquisition, gaining mobile patents and expanding in hardware. Microsoft purchased Skype Technologies for $8.5 billion in October, the biggest Internet takeover in more than a decade, in an effort to catch Google in online advertising and Apple in mobile software.

While Google and Microsoft paid in cash for their deals, the purchases didn’t put a dent in their funds. Microsoft’s cash and equivalents jumped 41 percent from a year earlier to $51.7 billion, based on its latest filing, while Google increased cash by 28 percent to $45.4 billion.

Apple, which has no debt and the most cash among technology companies at $97.6 billion, said Jan. 24 that it is discussing ways to spend its funds and would consider acquisitions.

“There’s more cash in technology than in any other sector and the low level of debt makes it very easy for companies in the industry to buy growth,” said JPMorgan’s Rajkovic, who is based in San Francisco.

Affordable targets

“As cash piles have increased, some potential targets have become more affordable. Shares of F5 Networks, whose software helps companies manage Internet traffic, lost 18 percent of their value in 2011 even as sales grew 31 percent. Riverbed Technology, a provider of equipment to boost networks’ speed, lost 33 percent while its revenue increased 32 percent. Shares of Acme Packet, a maker of devices that help networks transmit phone calls and video, dropped 42 percent last year while sales jumped 33 percent.

“You will see more M&A than last year, with some very strategic technology companies involved as valuations have become more reasonable,” said Larry Sonsini, who co-founded Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati, the law firm that brought Apple public in 1980.”

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Article from SFGate.

“Hewlett-Packard Chief Executive Officer Meg Whitman announced Thursday that the company has decided not to spin or sell off its PC division, another repudiation of a controversial plan proposed in August by her ousted predecessor, Léo Apotheker.

Whitman said an internal review showed it would be more costly to sell or spin off the unit, called the Personal Services Group, than to keep it within the Palo Alto company.

“HP objectively evaluated the strategic, financial and operational impact of spinning off PSG,” Whitman said in a statement. “It’s clear after our analysis that keeping PSG within HP is right for customers and partners, right for shareholders, and right for employees. HP is committed to PSG, and together we are stronger.”

The plan to spin off or sell the division was one of the major factors that led HP’s board of directors to dump Apotheker in September and hire Whitman. The PC unit is HP’s least profitable, but accounts for about one-third of the company’s revenue.

In a news release issued minutes after the close of trading on Wall Street Thursday, HP noted the unit generated $40.7 billion in revenue for fiscal year 2010.

HP said the internal review “revealed the depth of the integration that has occurred across key operations such as supply chain, IT and procurement. It also detailed the significant extent to which PSG contributes to HP’s solutions portfolio and overall brand value. Finally, it also showed that the cost to recreate these in a stand alone company outweighed any benefits of separation.”

When she took the helm, Whitman said her appointment wasn’t a signal that HP was shifting its strategy away from the course set by Apotheker.

But at an economic conference earlier this month in San Francisco, Whitman was asked whether HP would continue Apotheker’s software expansion strategy following the company’s $10.3 billion purchase of British software maker Autonomy Corp.

“It’s certainly the end of big acquisitions,” Whitman said.

Stock in HP closed at $26.99 per share, up $1.24, on the New York Stock Exchange.”

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