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Tech Rumor of the Day: NetApp Touted as M&A Bait

Storage may offer a bright spot for investors in the slowly-recovering economy, as M&A chatter again swirls around NetApp (NTAP - Get Report).

"We do believe it would make sense for a larger IT company to acquire NetApp as it would be attractive from a product portfolio and accretion perspective," wrote Brian Marshall, an analyst at Broadpoint AmTech, in a note released Tuesday. The storage specialist could be particularly attractive to a "more mature" IT company like Cisco (CSCO - Get Report), IBM (IBM - Get Report) or Hewlett-Packard (HPQ - Get Report), he added. Although not exactly the tech sector's equivalent of The Graduate, there has already been speculation touting NetApp as a possible target for the cougar-like IBM.

Increasingly seen as one of the hottest stocks in the vibrant storage space, it is hardly surprising that the firm has popped up as a potential M&A target. With a market cap of around $7.53 billion, NetApp would not come cheap, but would be significantly less expensive than three years ago, when the firm was valued at more than $12 billion.

This, of course, is very much conjecture, although NetApp is grabbing plenty of attention from analysts buoyed by its recent performance. Despite losing out to rival EMC (EMC - Get Report) in the battle to acquire Data Domain (DDUP), NetApp still reeks of upside, according to Broadpoint AmTech's Marshall.

"The company offers one of the highest growth profiles in the entire technology industry," he wrote, explaining that NetApp has averaged 28% growth over the last five years. EMC, in contrast, averaged 19% growth over the same period, he added.

Citing its strength in mid-range storage, the analyst reiterated his NetApp "Buy" rating, and looked ahead to the firm's first-quarter results, which are expected in late August.

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