The Indian government replaced Satyam's board of directors after CEO B. Ramalinga Raju admitted to cooking the company's books for years. The state effectively runs this show now, and it has announced an interest in selling Satyam outright to someone with the will and the resources to save the company from its own history. The big fish are already nibbling on that hook.
IBM (NYSE: IBM ) officials have met with Satyam's people to discuss a sale. That tie-in would make sense, given Big Blue's existing presence in Satyam's consulting and services sector. IBM is also not shy about growing abroad. More surprisingly, Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL ) is sniffing around, too. Larry Ellison is definitely no stranger to big deals, but this would be a new business direction for his company.
While government officials and Satyam itself remain tight-lipped about further details, sources say that more than 50 companies have responded to the possible sale. You have to assume that big-time domestic rivals Wipro (NYSE: WIT ) and Infosys (Nasdaq: INFY ) would be interested. Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) is another obvious suitor after jumping into services with both feet last year, buying out EDS for a hefty $12 billion.
Satyam would be far cheaper, of course. Its market cap today is a pesky $444 million, after a heart-stopping 95% price drop in the last year. The scandal hurt Satyam far worse than any global recession ever could. India would probably demand a hefty price premium on any sale, but all of the companies above have deep pockets and could pay cash or swap a few million stock shares in a deal of the couple-of-billion-dollars range.
Surely one of these international heavyweights wants to grab a piece of Satyam's sizable customer base and engineering talent for pennies on the dollar. Watch this space for further details. While I don't condone gambling in the stock market, the share price could pop hard if Satyam finds a suitable partner. Stranger things have happened.