Google and VMware most active in software firm acquisition for 2011

While the world has been distracted by HP’s baffling $10.2 billion purchase of Autonomy and Microsoft’s surprising $9 billion buy of Skype, EMC/VMware and Google have been snapping up dozens of software companies throughout 2011.

So far this year, Google has announced 23 acquisitions. With a few weeks left to go in the year, it may tie its record year in 2010 in which it completed a whopping 25 deals.

While the financial details of most of Google’s deals were not disclosed, its acquisition of Motorola Mobility was by far its largest deal ever, and one of the biggest deals of the year, at $12.5 billion, according to data from investment banking firm Berkery Noyes. This compares to Google’s second biggest acquisition in 2007 of DoubleClick for $3.1 billion. Its third-place buy was YouTube in 2006 for $1.65 billion.

In 2011, Google was heavily focused on buying quasi-competing social search/price comparison sites like restaurant review site Zagat for $151 million, the DailyDeal coupon site for $114 million, and U.K. site for £37.7 million.

EMC has also been very busy, but has been strangely quiet about the details of its acquisitions. When including deals done by its subsidiary VMware, EMC announced a total of eight purchases this year, plus one transfer of assets and one deal that wasn’t announced but seemed to have happened anyway, according to Mary Jo Zandy, managing director at Berkery Noyes. Interestingly, of all the purchases made in VMware’s name, EMC did not disclose the financial details of any of them.

VMware’s shopping spree consisted of: PacketMotion, maker of database and virtual machine activity monitoring; Digital Fuel Technologies, maker of IT business planning tools; Socialcast, a collaboration tool collaborative application; patch management vendor Shavlik Technologies; SlideRocket, maker of cloud-based business presentation software; WaveMaker Software, a graphical Java development tool; and NeoAccel, maker of SSL VPNs. Included in the list is Mozy, which was EMC’s own online backup service so was actually a transfer of assets between EMC to VMware rather than an actual purchase.

In addition, parent company EMC also bought NetWitness; and in an under-the-radar move, made a significant deal with Asankya, too. “EMC has quietly snapped up some assets of Asankya, a developer of application acceleration services and solutions which can be applied to cloud storage solutions,” Zandy says. The extent of the deal was never announced, although a spokesperson did eventually confirm.

Taken together, these 10 deals make EMC the second-most active acquirer following Google.

The biggest software deal of the year so far belongs to HP and its purchase of Autonomy, which remains baffling when comparing it to the rest of the year’s activity.

Berkery Noyes reports that HP spent 10.8 times Autonomy’s revenue and 24.5 Autonomy’s EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization). This compares with an industry average of 13.6 EBITDA multiple and a 2.3 revenue multiple for other software acquisition deals announced in the third quarter.

While Autonomy’s e-discovery market is a hot one for acquisitions, and Autonomy was the largest player in the U.K., Zandy says HP may have been looking at its other assets. “Autonomy isn’t a pure-play. It had grown through acquisitions.”

That said, HP’s CEO who sanctioned that deal, Léo Apotheker, was ousted in September and replaced by Meg Whitman. It’s her job now to make Autonomy’s assets pay off for HP.

The second-largest deal in the software industry so far this year is Microsoft’s $9 billion purchase of Skype.

In a report that focused exclusively on software acquisitions through the end of the third quarter (so did not include Google’s Motorola Mobility buy, nor its purchase of websites like Zagat), Berkery Noyes said that 2011 has so far seen $63.5 billion worth of deals. Among them, the top 10 accounted for 49% at about $30.1 billion.

“Overall acquisition spending shows deal activity has been pretty healthy in 2011,” says Zandy, with much of the activity focused on cloud startups. To them she says, “If you are in cloud computing, you are golden.”

Julie Bort is the editor of Network World’s Microsoft Subnet and Open Source Subnet communities. She writes the Microsoft Update and Source Seeker blogs. Follow Bort on Twitter @Julie188.


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