Corporate IT spending growth is minimal, and a growing portion of the money that is being spent is going to hungry upstarts and cloud app and service providers. Combine that with large cash balances, mostly low industry valuations and still-reasonable interest rates, and you have very good conditions for heightened M&A activity among larger enterprise IT firms hungry to improve their growth profiles.
Monday brought us two more large deals involving acquirers struggling to grow amid tough direct and indirect competition. Symantec (SYMC) announced it's buying ID theft-protection services firm LifeLock for $2.3 billion, and Oracle (ORCL) announced the acquisition of domain name service provider Dyn. Tech reporter Dan Primack has heard the latter deal feature a price "just north of $600 million."
The LifeLock deal follows Symantec's $4.65 billion purchase of security hardware, software and services provider Blue Coat, a move that strengthened the hardware and web security footprints of Symantec's slumping enterprise security unit.
Symantec plans to pair LifeLock's offerings with those of its Norton consumer security unit, which has been hurt by weak PC sales and Microsoft's bundling of its Windows Defender software with Windows copies.
Symantec's consumer revenue fell 6% annually in its calendar third quarter. Enterprise revenue rose 26% thanks to the Blue Coat deal.
Oracle, meanwhile, is only a week removed from closing its $9.3 billion purchase of SMB cloud app provider NetSuite. And prior to that, the company had respectively spent $532 million and $663 million this year to buy cloud utility management software firm Opower and cloud construction software firm Textura, and a reported $500 million to buy virtualization software firm Ravello Systems. Plenty of other acquisitions -- many of them cloud-related -- have also been made over the last five years.
The software giant's latest deals follow an August quarter in which revenue rose just 2% annually, with a 77% increase in cloud app (SaaS) and app platform (PaaS) revenue largely offset by an 11% drop in traditional software license revenue and a 12% drop in hardware revenue.
Not counting the NetSuite and Dyn deals, Oracle expects November quarter revenue to be flat to up 3% in constant currency. NetSuite will boost SaaS revenue, while Dyn will bolster a cloud infrastructure (IaaS) business that remains far smaller than those of market leaders Amazon (AMZN) , Microsoft (MSFT) and Alphabet's (GOOGL) Google.
To a large extent, IBM (IBM) and Cisco Systems (CSCO) have mindsets similar to Oracle's. Big Blue bought 13 companies last year as its revenue (excluding divested businesses) fell 9%, and has bought 13 more this year as its sales fell another 3% over the first nine months in spite of the boost provided by its acquisition binge.
Major purchases include healthcare analytics software/services firm Truven ($2.6 billion), healthcare imaging software firm Merge Healthcare ($1 billion), storage hardware/software firm Cleversafe (reportedly over $1.3 billion) and Weather Co.'s digital assets (reportedly over $2 billion).
Cisco has bought 11 companies since Chuck Robbins was named CEO in the spring of 2015, with nearly all of the deals aiding the company's goal of increasing its software and cloud service exposure.
IoT cloud service provider Jasper Technologies ($1.4 billion), collaboration hardware/software provider Acano ($700 million), cloud security software/services firm OpenDNS ($635 million) and cloud app security software firm CloudLock ($293 million) were among the biggest deals.
A look at Cisco's October quarter earnings report gives some context for its M&A strategy. Adjusted revenue beat estimates, but rose just 1% annually as soft switching, server, collaboration and service provider video sales offset healthy routing and security growth. And the company guided for adjusted revenue to drop 2% to 4% this quarter, thanks in large part to weak telecom capex.
Microsoft, though faring better than many enterprise giants as its cloud investments pay off, also isn't immune to spending heavily on M&A to boost growth, as its pending $26.2 billion LinkedIn acquisition shows.
And HP Enterprise (HPE) , which just missed October quarter sales estimates and reported its enterprise hardware division revenue fell an adjusted 3%, recently spent $275 million to buy high-performance computing server/storage vendor SGI. With HPE set to get a $2.5 billion cash payment as part of a deal to spin off much of its software business, the company should soon have more funds to go shopping with.
And if Congress signs off on them, President-elect Trump's plans for a 10% one-time repatriation tax on offshore cash could give many big tech billions more in M&A funds. Cisco signaled on last week's earnings call it could use repatriated cash on both capital returns and acquisitions.
There are plenty of potential targets for enterprise giants. Companies that have reportedly explored sales this year, such as FireEye (FEYE) , Tableau Software (DATA) and Imperva (IMPV) , are a natural place to start looking. Meanwhile, those invested in the likes of Oracle, IBM, Cisco and HPE shouldn't be stunned to see these companies announce fresh 10-figure deals.