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The Deal: GI Partners Sells SoftLayer to IBM

Stocks in this article: IBM AMZN BMC WBSN DELL

NEW YORK ( TheDeal) -- SoftLayer Technologies, the Texas-based cloud infrastructure provider majority owned by private equity firm GI Partners, will be acquired by New York tech company IBM (IBM).

Specifics of the deal were not publicized, but one source familiar with the transaction estimated the price tag to be approximately $2 billion. The New York Times first reported the deal's cost.

The deal is set to close in the third quarter.

IBM, led by chairwoman and CEO Virginia Rometty, also announced Tuesday that it would launch a new cloud services platform that will incorporate SoftLayer's offerings with IBM's SmartCloud.

The latest series of moves for the Armonk, N.Y.-based tech titan is seen as an effort to directly compete with companies such as Amazon (AMZN), which, with its Web services platform, has developed a multibillion-dollar business through services such as Web marketing, cloud infrastructure and data analysis. "Competitors are going to need M&A like this to keep pace with Amazon" Web services, one industry insider suggested.

GI Partners acquired SoftLayer along with the company's management in an August 2010 deal; the PE firm would later merge it with DH Capital was financial advisor to the company when it was first acquired by GI Partners.

The Daily Deal reported in January that GI Partners, as majority stakeholder, had begun testing the market for a sale of SoftLayer and that the anticipated deal value of the company ranged from $1.5 billion to $2 billion.

Past deals in the space include last year's Cogeco Cable deal for Peer 1 Network Enterprises, at 13 to 15 times EBITDA, and CenturyLink's (CTL) $3.2 billion deal for Savvis in 2011, at 9 to 11 times EBITDA.

A Moody's Investors Service report projected SoftLayer would generate $425 million in 2013 revenue.

IBM's deal comes as M&A in the tech industry has bolstered otherwise uninspiring deal volume and values for 2013. With leveraged buyouts of companies including BMC Software (BMC), Websense (WBSN), and Dell (DELL), public markets have more often seen underperforming technology companies being removed from exchanges, than strategics striking deals for private companies.

However, that could be changing, especially as technology and competition force more and more companies to compete on mobile platforms: Salesforce (CRM) agreed Tuesday to buy out marketing software company ExactTarget (ET) for $2.5 billion.

IBM generally doesn't use financial advisers, but took legal advice from Cravath, Swaine & Moore's Eric Schiele. SoftLayer turned to Chris Bartlett at Morgan Stanley (MS) for financial advice and a Kirkland & Ellis team including David Breach, Travis Nelson, John Lynn and associate Amber Meek for legal counsel.

Chris Nolter and David Marcus contributed to this report.

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