IBM Is Indeed Eyeing Sun (Finally!)

Published on March 18, 2009
by Kara Swisher


About three weeks ago, BoomTown surmised that the they’re-practically-giving-them-away prices for some prime but distressed tech companies–combined with cash hordes by stronger players–would eventually result in some acquisition activity sooner than later.

One combination I flagged most prominently, based on several sources, was that IBM would try to grab Sun Microsystems.

And today, The Wall Street Journal reported that that was indeed the case. Talks, the story said, were talking place, with a price of about $6.5 billion as a possibility, a 100 percent premium to Sun’s current market valuation.

We’re not so sure IBM will pay that much in this market, but it’s a good idea for the pair.

Such a deal has been long rumored in Silicon Valley, so I wasn’t the first to suggest such an obvious move, and these talks come as a surprise to very few, which would rescue the long-declining Sun and give heft to IBM’s Internet aims.

In fact, on Feb. 26, I wrote:

“IBM Buys Sun:

I mean someone has to buy Sun Microsystems (JAVA)–now hovering in the $5 a share range with a market valuation of just $3.62 billon–right?

But it’s not going to be Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), despite a deal announced just yesterday in which HP will distribute and provide support for Sun’s Solaris operating system on a line of HP servers.

Analysts dismissed the deal as meaningless in terms of true revenue, with one noting that it did not mean HP would buy Sun either, especially for its server business, because of redundant hardware products.


That leaves, according to many observers I spoke to: IBM (IBM), which competes with Sun in the server business too. Many think the products fit better together and IBM has a $115.3 billion valuation, so the purchase would be doable.

The server business is sucking wind, according to a report earlier this week, due to the global economy, so finding safe harbor for Sun is something Wall Street seems to be looking for.

Of course, Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz curiously did use the term ‘Live Free or Die’ in his blog post about the HP deal yesterday–although he was not referring to Sun’s independence, but noting the phrase was ‘synonymous with software independence, innovation and intellectual property freedom.'”

I guess for Sun, freedom’s just another word for something left to sell.

The other deal I mentioned as a major possibility is also commonly bandied about in Silicon Valley and is considered to be just a matter of time and price: Google (GOOG) buying hot microblogging service Twitter.

Let the let’s-make-a-deal activity begin!

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