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UPDATE: IBM To Acquire Data Specialist Netezza For $1.7B

September 20, 2010
Wall Street Journal
by Shara Tibken

NEW YORK (Dow Jones)—International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) agreed to acquire data specialist Netezza Corp. (NZ) in a deal valued at $1.7 billion, as Big Blue expands its analytics business.

The deal marks the latest in the data-warehousing sector, coming a month after the start of the public bidding war between Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) and Dell Inc. (DELL) for data-storage company 3Par Inc. (PAR). Tech giants have been seeking to build their exposure to the storage and analytics markets, which have been growing quickly as companies and governments use more space to hold the billions of emails, customer orders and other vital information needed to run their operations.

Netezza provides technology that allows companies and government agencies to quickly analyze huge amounts of data—something IBM says will give it an advantage in its analytics business.

Netezza offers “a much simpler way to get started on analytics and data warehousing than anyone else in the industry,” said Arvind Krishna, IBM general manager for information management. He told Dow Jones Newswires Netezza’s system can be operated by one person instead of “an army of people” and that it provides increased performance at a lower cost.

Netezza holders will receive $27 a share under the deal, a 9.8% premium to Friday’s closing price. Netezza shares recently rose above the offer price, up 13% to $27.75, suggesting investors may be hoping for a higher offer. As of Friday’s close, the stock had soared 77% since Dell’s initial offer for 3Par.

IBM shares added about 1% to $131.46.

Analysts said a counteroffer isn’t out of the question, but some cautioned any company would be hard pressed to best IBM’s strong balance sheet. H-P was mentioned by some analysts as potential bidder, but it may not want to make its third pricey acquisition in a month. Along with 3Par, H-P also said earlier this month it was buying security-software company ArcSight Inc. (ARST).

“I would assume bankers took [Netezza] to all appropriate places to shop it, but anything’s possible,” Baird analyst Jayson Noland said.

IBM’s Krishna declined to say whether IBM started merger talks with Netezza before the 3Par bidding war began, saying only that Netezza and IBM have been partners for a few years.

Krishna also declined to comment on the bidding process for Netezza or say if another company may make a counteroffer.

Investors had been looking for the next takeover target in the data-storage sector, and they again scooped up shares of other companies in the space. Compellent Technologies Inc. (CML) rose 1.1% to $18.05, CommVault Systems Inc. (CVLT) grew 4% to $28.09 and Isilon Systems Inc. (ISLN) edged up 1.9% to $25.55.

Teradata Corp. (TDC), one of Netezza’s competitors in the data warehousing space, jumped 9.8% to $37.83. Analysts said Teradata could become a target, though it isn’t as fast growing as Netezza.

Representatives from Compellent, CommVault, Isilon and Teredata weren’t immediately available to comment.

The acquisition of Netezza comes as Big Blue seeks to sell programs that help clients sort through the mountain of data being generated by the growing number of transactions and record keeping that have moved to electronic form. Those programs, called analytics, help retailers dig through real-time sales figures to spot unexpected trends or governments plow through piles of records to more quickly catch welfare fraud or identify risks.

IBM said it has spent more than $12 billion on 23 analytics-related acquisitions over the past four years. The company made another acquisition just last week, buying OpenPages, a provider of software that helps companies more easily identify and manage risk as well as compliance activities across the enterprise through a single management system.

“We announced one [acquisition] last week, and we announced one this week,” Krishna said. “We’re going as fast as we can.”

The analytics business has been posting strong growth, up 14% in the second quarter, and the purchase of companies like Netezza will allow IBM to maintain its momentum, Krishna said.

“We’re posting double-digit growth in a market growing about 3% to 4%,” Krishna said. “That says a lot about our strategy and the power of the analytics portfolio.”

Krishna said the Netezza deal should add to earnings within two years after closing, which is expected in the fourth quarter.

And ThinkEquity analyst Rajesh Ghai said Netezza sales could easily reach $1 billion in a year or two with IBM’s sales force behind it.

“IBM definitely has more distribution levels than anybody else, and it can take Netezza products and spread them across its installed base,” Ghai said.

Meanwhile, Jim Baum, Netezza president and chief executive, told Dow Jones Newswires that he would stay with the company and work with IBM executives.

UPDATE: IBM To Acquire Data Specialist Netezza For $1.7B

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