15 Attractive Takeover Targets in the Networking Technology Space

NEW YORK (The Deal) -- With Hewlett-Packard's (HPQ) $2.7 billion purchase of Aruba Networks (ARUN) and Mitel Networks's (MITL) $560 million acquisition of Mavenir Systems (MVNR), the field of networking technology providers continues to thin.

The targets have different business models. Aruba manufactures Wi-Fi access points, among other wireless gear, and provides security and network management services. HP CEO Meg Whitman said that Aruba's offerings would help her company develop "mobile-first" services suited to the "new style of IT" that corporate clients seek.

Mavenir develops software that transmits voice, video and other traffic over wireless broadband networks, competing with companies such as Nokia (NOK) that also make equipment.

Cowen analyst Paul Silverstein suggested in a report that the two deals are part of an almost inexorable glomming together of networking companies that leaves everyone but Cisco  (CSCO) as a potential target.

"The 25+ year history of the networking industry has been one of constant death (by way of consolidation, private equity takeouts and outright failures via liquidations) and rebirth (via IPOs)," he wrote," Silverstein wrote. "The industry now appears to be entering a phase of heightened consolidation."

The list of deal candidates includes Arista Networks (ANET), Infoblox (BLOX), BroadSoft (BSFT), Motorola Solutions (MSI), Sonus Networks (SONS), Applied Optoelectronics (AAOI), Calix (CALX), Ciena (CIEN), F5 Networks (FFIV) and Juniper Networks (JNPR), the analyst wrote.

With the acquisition of Aruba, Dougherty analyst Catharine Trebnick pointed to a group of publicly-traded wireless local area networking companies such as Ruckus Wireless (RKUS), Aerohive Networks (HIVE) and Ubiquiti Networks (UBNT).

"If there were another takeout, Nokia might look at Ruckus," Trebnick said, adding that Aerohive could interest Dell. While the analyst did not think Ciena would become a target, Trebnick suggested that suitors could emerge for Cyan (CYNI) or BTI Systems, which has backing from Bain Capital's VC arm, the Canadian government's BDC and others.

Though consolidation has removed competitors from the market, the list of companies that Silverstein and Trebnick identified reflects a still-fragmented industry.

UBS analyst Amitabh Passi wrote that HP's acquisition of Aruba would benefit the sector, by clearing away one of the participants. Holdouts such as Adtran (ADTN), Calix, Ciena and Juniper could be attractive buyout candidates, he suggested.

While the latest deals reflect continued consolidation among networkers, the sale of Aruba does not bode well for companies or investors hoping for a rich takeout. HP's bid of $24.67 was at the low end of analyst projections, which were as high as $35 per share in a sale.

"People, including me, thought it would be at a higher price," Trebnick said of the deal.

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