IBM ( IBM) and Sun Microsystems ( JAVA) are not the only tech giants that are the subject of M&A talk at the moment. Shares of Linux specialist Red Hat ( RHT) surged on Monday after speculation that the software company could be an Oracle ( ORCL) acquisition target. This is not the first time that M&A chatter has swirled around the two firms, but investors would be advised to not get swept up in it. There are too many reasons why an Oracle for Red Hat deal doesn't make sense. "Given IBM's pending acquisition of
Sun's OpenSolaris and Oracle's history as a value buyer, the time does not seem right," wrote Katherine Egbert, an analyst at Jefferies, in a research note Monday. Egbert explains that there is now a question mark hanging over IBM's continued backing of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), and warns that Oracle has a very specific M&A agenda. "Oracle does not have a history of purchasing still fast-growing competitors," she wrote. "So while we think an Oracle purchase of Red Hat is eventually highly likely, we think it's premature." Add to that Oracle's recent decision to pay its first-ever dividend, and a Red Hat acquisition seems even more unlikely. The database titan recently bowed to investors and joined Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ) and Microsoft ( MSFT) on the big tech dividend list. Oracle says it will now issue 20 cents in annual dividends. Oracle, however, recently lowered its guidance for the fiscal fourth quarter ending in May, underlining the challenges of selling software in a tough economy.
Larry Ellison and his team are certainly no strangers to acquisitions, and Oracle has snapped up a slew of companies in recent years, including big names such as BEA Systems, Hyperion Solutions and Siebel Systems. The hard-charging Oracle CEO may be able to pick up a bargain or two during this economic downturn, but it's unlikely to be Red Hat.