In Search of the Next Storage Multibagger

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If you want to know why value investors are running from high P/E tech stocks like water from a faucet, look no further than Isilon Systems (Nasdaq: ISLN  ) .

Shares of this provider of networked data storage technology rose more than 8% yesterday after Bloomberg reported the company is exploring a sale. The logical acquirer would be, well, the loser in the 3PAR (NYSE: PAR  ) bidding war: Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) .

For those unfamiliar, shares of 3PAR tripled after Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) and Dell swapped bids for the data storage supplier. HP's $2.1 billion offer ultimately won out, leaving Dell short on storage technology.

Enter Isilon. According to unnamed sources quoted by Bloomberg, the company has hired Frank Quattrone's Qatalyst Partners to find an acquirer, the very same banker that advised 3PAR.

Coincidence? Isilon isn't talking. Bloomberg quotes CEO Sujal Patel as saying his focus is on "building a big company." Fair enough, but this is also exactly what Patel is supposed to say. Meanwhile, HP has 3PAR, IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) has Netezza (NYSE: NZ  ) , and Dell is left without a date to the data storage ball.

The math is also curious. Yesterday's action brought Isilon's market cap to $1.65 billion, within spitting distance of Netezza's $1.7 billion buyout price, and within 27% of HP's winning bid for 3PAR.

I've no doubt Dell needs a storage partner if it's to remain competitive with HP and IBM as a single-source supplier of tech infrastructure, but that doesn't mean today's Isilon investors will make money.

Just look at the numbers. Shares of Isilon have quadrupled over the past year, and today the stock is priced at more than 70 times ambitious forward earnings. I'm not the only one who thinks that's nuts, right?

Now it's your turn to weigh in. Should Dell buy Isilon? Please vote in the poll below and then leave a comment to explain your thinking. And if you're interested in Isilon, click here to add it to your Foolish watchlist.

True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He owned shares of IBM at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader. The Motley Fool owns shares of IBM and is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy wonders what it would get if it sold itself to the highest bidder.

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  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2010, at 1:06 PM, MegaEurope wrote:

    Bloomberg quotes CEO Sujal Patel as saying his focus is on "building a big company." Fair enough, but this is also exactly what Patel is supposed to say.

    LOL, not quite. Management is supposed to be concerned about providing returns to investors, not expanding at any cost so they can justify paying themselves more.

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