What is this, the French Open? NetApp (Nasdaq: NTAP ) and EMC (NYSE: EMC ) are trading shots over who's going to acquire data deduplication expert Data Domain (Nasdaq: DDUP ) like Andy Murray and Fernando Gonzales trading blistering forehands over the red clay of Roland Garros.
Quick recap for those who blinked and missed it all: NetApp placed an offer for Data Domain at $25 per share in cash and stock, EMC said "Na-ah!" and started a $30 per share unsolicited tender offer. The ball was back in NetApp's court, and you just knew that the action was about to heat up.
And heat up it did. Now NetApp has matched EMC's $30 per share offer, albeit still with a combination of cash and stock versus the bigger boy's all-cash offer. EMC immediately told investors to just take the tender offer, and nudged Data Domain's board "to not take any actions that would further impede a transaction that is a superior alternative for Data Domain's shareholders."
But the board didn't listen and simply approved NetApp's new proposal. Data Domain CEO Frank Slootman said that this deal "will provide great value to our shareholders and customers."
So the ball is firmly back in EMC's court. The fact that Data Domain's stock now trades at $32.75 per share, a good 9% above the accepted offer price, tells me that shareholders are not particularly interested in EMC's original tender offer and are expecting a higher offer or two. Considering how fast this saga has played out so far, I wouldn't be surprised to see another move or two in the coming week.
Of course, if Data Domain's owners vote down any of these offers at the special shareholder meeting that seems impending, they may coax a higher value out of their holdings -- but should also remember the lessons learned from failed takeovers like Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT ) pursuit of Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO ) and Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: ERTS ) trying but failing to marry Take-Two Interactive (Nasdaq: TTWO ) .
Take-Two now trades about 66% below EA's offer price, and Yahoo's owners could have taken the money and ran rather than sitting out a 45% fall (from the initial offer price).
And maybe those failures are the reason why everyone is moving so darn fast here. I think there'll be a firm deal by the time we crown the Wimbledon champ.