June 9, 2009
You already know that Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO ) is filthy rich. You also know that this uncertain and financially wobbly economic environment is prime breeding ground for opportunistic buyouts. Put two and two together, and you get a quote from Cisco VP of business development Charles Carmel: "We will be more active in the second half of this calendar year than the first half ... and we'll do more this year than last."
Now, that is hardly a ringing endorsement of a hyperactive buyout strategy. According to Capital IQ, Cisco closed only five non-private placement acquisitions last year, and the largest disclosed sum was a $226 million deal for email specialist PostPath. That's a far cry from the 12 mergers signed in 2007, including the $3.1 billion buyout of rich messaging expert WebEx.
But since the company already signed three small buyouts in the first half of 2009, a higher pace in the second half still means that they've got the shopping bug. Here's where I see the biggest small- to medium-sized opportunities for Cisco to put all that cash to good use:
- Citrix Systems (Nasdaq: CTXS ) as a Cisco division makes sense to me. With a $5.2 billion enterprise value, it'd be a pretty big deal by Cisco's standards. But in a single blow, a Citrix deal would augment the WebEx corporate collaboration platform and the Telepresence remote meeting system. Citrix's expertise in remote application delivery makes the deal attractive in its own right -- oh, and then there's the little bonus of giving Cisco some skin in the high-stakes virtualization game. VMware (NYSE: VMW ) might not be happy about seeing Cisco's server systems shipping out with Citrix XenSource installed, but you can't please everyone, and with its push into Unified Computing Systems, Cisco has shown it's not afraid to take the risk of upsetting strategic partners.
- Among smaller baits, Cisco could grab network filtering specialist Websense (Nasdaq: WBSN ) for about $1 billion -- including a decent 20% buyout premium. A Cisco router with Websense security built right in could turn heads and empty wallets.
- Possibly Cisco's biggest step away from its core networking business was acquiring set-top box maker Scientific Atlanta. If the company wants to bolster that bulkhead in your living room, video recorder pioneer TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO ) is a wild-card that might sell for a song and still get shareholder approval. Video-on-demand specialist SeaChange (Nasdaq: SEAC ) would be another strategic fit at an attractive price.
And I haven't even touched on actual networking opportunities. Now, I wouldn't bet my entire nest egg on any one of these possible buyout targets, as Cisco hasn't actually told us about impending deals or advanced negotiations yet. But any or all of these deals would make a lot of sense to me if they were announced tomorrow or next year.
Further acquisitive Foolishness: