Business The growth in technology takeovers Moving up the stack
商业 科技公司并购案增多 上移堆栈
Big deals are back, as is an old acquaintance
IT MUST feel good to be back.
Frank Quattrone seemed sidelined for good when the rock-star banker, who had taken dozens of technology companies public during the dotcom boom, was prosecuted for obstruction of justice.
Yet after fighting off the charges, he swiftly founded Qatalyst, a boutique investment bank.
In a short time it has become a popular adviser to tech firms angling for the best offer.
It helped Autonomy, a British software firm, sell itself to HP for buckets of cash (see article).
Mr Quattrone is in the right place at the right time.
According to Ernst & Young, an accounting firm, the value of technology mergers and acquisitions, on an upward trajectory since late 2008, has increased by 75% in the second quarter of this year (see chart).
The third quarter has already seen two deals of more than $10 billion:
Autonomy and Motorola Mobility, a handset-maker, which Google bought for $12.5 billion (with Motorola also being advised by Mr Quattrone's Qatalyst).
Mr Quattrone foretold this trend.
To him, it is a consequence of the computer industry's shifting geology.
For decades, most firms concentrated on one layer of what geeks call the "technology stack": hardware, operating systems, databases and applications.
But they are increasingly moving onto each other's turf—in search of growth and because customers demand everything in one package.
Buying a company is the fastest way to add to one's technology portfolio.
Yet there is more to the picture than this "reverticalisation", says Joseph Steger of Ernst & Young.
Many technology giants have plenty of cash: in the second quarter, the 25 largest had amassed $591 billion.
Many also want to ride the big trends in the industry, in particular mobile technologies and cloud computing. More recently, patents have become an important rationale for acquisitions, as was the case with Google's takeover of Motorola.
Is the M&A boom a bubble?
Some see froth, with Google paying more than $510,000 per patent (if one forgets that Motorola also makes mobile phones) and HP doling out the equivalent of 17% of its own market capitalisation for an extra 1% of revenue.
But the recent stockmarket fall will calm things down.
Even Mr Quattrone may welcome this: he has no interest in being identified with another financial craze.