The chipmaker, which has been a focus of buyout rumors for more than a year, still looks appealing to its larger peers including Qualcomm (QCOM - Get Report) and Broadcom (AVGO - Get Report) , and could fetch over $13 billion in a sale, according to analysts. Particularly for Qualcomm, Xilinx would give the chipmaker some much-needed diversification away from mobile-focused revenue.
"If you think about all the [chip sector] consolidation, [Xilinx is] one of the last remaining, highly attractive assets that haven't been taken out yet," M Science analyst Mark Bachman said via phone. "There's only a few left to go. This is the one that's more highly sought-after."
Buyout interest in the San Jose, Calif.-based chipmaker spiked last June when its smaller rival Altera got picked up by Intel (INTC - Get Report) for $16.7 billion. That acquisition closed in December.
Altera and Xilinx make field programmable gate arrays, or FPGAs, that refer to specific type of chips built to be configured by a customer or a designer. Xilinx serves a wide range of end markets including communications and data center; industrial, aerospace & defense; and broadcast, consumer & automotive.
Intel bought Altera for its communications offerings and any potential buyers of Xilinx would be looking for the same capabilities, Bachman said, adding that Qualcomm, Broadcom and Texas Instruments (TXN - Get Report) could all take interest.
"If you want to take Intel head on, then yes, Qualcomm could be interested in this," Bachman said.
The tie-up between Intel and Altera last year was part of an intense wave of consolidation among semis who busily turned to M&A for scale as revenue growth slowed. Players in the sector aggressively pursued deals out of fear of being left behind.
Even at the mid-cap level, chipmakers enjoyed a healthy level of deal activity and even saw a number of bidding wars transpire.
Microchip Technology (MCHP - Get Report) emerged as the winner to buy Atmel for $3.6 billion, pushing aside the target's former merger partner Dialog Semiconductor. Microsemi (MSCC) was declared victor of a six-week bidding war for PMC-Sierra with its $2.5 billion proposal, leaving Skyworks Solutions (SWKS - Get Report) in the cold.
Qualcomm, however, remained relatively quiet as the chip giant explored strategic options following pressure from activist Jana Partners. It eventually concluded the review and decided against splitting the chip business from its patent licensing division.
The result has been that Qualcomm has been sitting on plenty of cash, so Xilinx could aid Qualcomm's efforts to diversify its revenue base away from mobile devices, Bachman added.
Intel's bet on Altera was a strategic one as the Santa Clara, Calif.-based buyer gained the exposure to end markets such as data centers that it had been interested in, Morningstar analyst Abhinav Davuluri said via phone, while wondering if Intel may have overpaid somewhat with its purchase price of about 24 times Ebitda for Altera.
While Qualcomm would be a possible buyer of Xilinx, its efforts on the data center and communications side are still in their infancy, Davuluri said. He questioned what value Xilinx would ultimately provide to Qualcomm.
"Xilinx is fairly valued," Davuluri said, adding that the company could fetch between $55 to $60 a share in a sale. Based on the current 253.29 million outstanding shares, this benchmark would assign Xilinx a valuation of somewhere between $13.9 billion and $15 billion.
Xilinx is an attractive takeout candidate in the consolidating chip industry and would be "near-perfect" complements to either Broadcom or Qualcomm, MKM Partners Ian Ing wrote in an April note.
With Xilinx in its fold, Broadcom would have a complete range of products required by networking and communications equipment makers, while for Qualcomm, Xilink would help with diversification.
For its part, Xilinx's stock has been quite volatile. The stock is down about 1.1% year-to-date, and shares were down about 0.8% to $46.34 near the close of trading Monday.
Xilinx, Qualcomm, Broadcom and Texas Instruments did not immediately respond to requests for comment for this article.