F5 Networks in Focus as Next Activist Target After Infoblox Deal

Infoblox (BLOX) became the latest IT management provider to taken private following pressure from disgruntled investors, highlighting the sector that has become a robust landscape for activists and posing the question of whether F5 Networks (FFIV) will receive the spotlight next.

Infoblox announced Monday that it has agreed to be acquired by tech-focused private equity firm Vista Equity Partners for about $1.6 billion, or $26.50 per share, in cash.

Shares of the IT management company rallied about 15% to $26.26 Monday morning.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company also said the board received and evaluated "multiple indications of interest" before agreeing to join the arms of Vista Equity.

Infoblox has become the latest player in the IT management sector to be sold following activist pressure. Jeffrey Smith's Starboard Value launched a campaign in April, revealing then that it would hold discussions with the company about potential M&A or financial and operational performance.

The big question is where the activists will go to next, said Needham & Co. analyst Alex Henderson, adding that F5 Networks could be among the next to receive spotlight simply because it fits the bill of companies that have become targets due to potential growth concerns.

Infoblox joins a long list of IT management companies that have come faced pressure from disgruntled investors that are fearing the impact of the shift from private cloud to public cloud, said Henderson via phone. Private cloud refers to an organization having its own infrastructure support system while public cloud refers to third parties operating an infrastructure system for various organizations.

Valuations of IT management companies have come down in the backdrop of slowing growth and investor fear about the public cloud, he said, adding that this fear has led to a number of activist campaigns.

For instance, now-privately-held Riverbed Technologies was taken private by a consortium led by PE firm Thoma Bravo after Elliott Management launched a campaign. Citrix Systems (CTXS) also faced pressure from Elliott Management before agreeing to merge its GoTo business with LogMeIn (LOGM) . Sandell Asset Management has been agitating for change at Viavi Solutions (VIAV) , formerly JDS Uniphase.

F5 Networks shares are up about 1% Monday morning to $119.74.

Meanwhile, Infoblox is joining one of the most active private equity firms of the year. Founded in 2000, Vista Equity focuses on investing in software companies and agreed to acquire marketing software company Marketo (MKTO)  for $1.79 billion in May and Cvent (CVT)  , an event management software maker, for $1.65 billion in April.

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