Canadian security specialist
, which successfully
a hostile takeover by
Research In Motion
( RIMM) earlier this week, is now being bought by encryption giant
for $73 million.
Certicom's management repeatedly resisted RIM's overtures, claiming that its $53 million offer was too low, but still kept its firm in the
in an apparent attempt to drive up the company's valuation.
This strategy appears to have worked. Certicom announced Friday that it had entered into an agreement whereby VeriSign will acquire all of its outstanding common shares for $1.67 a share. The deal, which is still subject to approval by the Canadian courts and Certicom's shareholders, is expected to close in March.
VeriSign's shares crept up in Friday trading, rising 2 cents, or 0.11%, to reach $18.54, in line with the modest rally in tech stocks. RIM's stock, in contrast, was down slightly, slipping 13 cents, or 0.25%, to $52.20.
RIM, which has only made a handful of acquisitions in the last few years, was looking to boost its smartphone security by snapping up Certicom, potentially keeping its encryption technology away from the BlackBerry maker's competitors.
Certicom develops an encryption technology called Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC), which is used to secure data on a range of devices, including smartphones. The same technique is used by the
National Security Agency
, and Certicom licenses its technology to a range of companies, including
( MOT) and RIM.
In a statement released Friday, VeriSign described its desire to pursue "emerging market opportunities" through Certicom's technology, a clear reference to the booming smartphone sector. Neither firm, however, was willing to discuss the deal's impact on Certicom's existing licensing agreements when contacted by
"Right now, we can't really comment on any details until the transaction is complete," explained a VeriSign spokeswoman.
Despite losing out on the Certicom acquisition, RIM's licensing deal with the security specialist is likely to remain intact, according to Todd Weller, an analyst at Stifel, Nicolaus & Company.
"I don't see any reason why VeriSign will come in and say 'we're going to nix the customer base.' " he told
, explaining that the Mountain View, Calif.-based firm will probably maintain the status quo between Certicom and its partners.
Smartphone security has been in the headlines recently as the press speculated over whether new President Barack Obama would bring his BlackBerry with him to the White House. Obama, a self-confessed BlackBerry addict, will use a heavily encrypted, specially-adapted smartphone, possibly General Dynamics' Sectera Edge, according to news reports.
For the man in the street, however, smartphone encryption remains a relatively low priority, according to Stifel, Nicolaus & Company's Weller.
"I don't think that encryption, within mobile devices, is that much of a differentiating feature," he said, adding that consumers are much more interested in features such as touch screens.
Even after entering into an agreement with VeriSign, however, Certicom could theoretically accept a higher offer. The deal between the two companies is being completed as a "plan of arrangement" under the Canadian Business Corporations Act, which contains a number of termination rights.
"The board of directors of Certicom may under certain circumstances terminate the agreement in favor of an unsolicited superior proposal, consistent with its fiduciary duties," the companies said, in a joint statement. This, however, would include a termination payment of $4 million to VeriSign, which also has the right to match any proposal.