Other Suitors for Sun Following IBM Deal Breakdown?

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print

Sun Microsystems' position has been substantially weakened by the breakdown in acquisition talks between Sun and IBM. That's because other suitors are unlikely, since Sun had already shopped itself around to other buyers such as HP.

With Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ:JAVA) and IBM (NYSE:IBM) reportedly breaking off acquisition talks, what’s next for Sun? Are there other suitors waiting in the wings?

Not according to Bernstein Research’s senior analyst Toni Sacconaghi, who says there are no other likely suitors to step in if IBM completely walks away from the deal.

"[Sun] approached most logical buyers several months ago, with IBM being the most interested," says Sacconaghi, in a brief report issued following the news that talks between Sun and IBM had broken down.  

"While we believe that HP makes the most sense given its cost focus, physical proximity to [Sun] (leading to more facile facilities consolidation), and more complementary product lines (HP is not as strong as IBM in Unix), the company appears fully focused on its acquisition of EDC, and a coincident deal to acquire Sun may prove to be overly distracting.

"[Sun’s] higher end server product portfolio would be very complementary to Dell, but we believe that an acquisition would be too pricey and represent too hearty an integration challenge for Dell." 

And what about Cisco, which has recently signaled its interest in the server market with the release of its own servers as part of its Unified Computing initiative? 

"I would be very surprised, but not shocked," Jeff Evenson, senior analyst for data networking at Bernstein Research tells Channel Insider. "I would definitely put the odds significantly below 10 percent."

Evenson says that if Cisco had wanted to use Sun to get into the server space, or access to Sun's sales channel, it could have pursued that deal several years ago.

Bernstein Research acknowledges that press reports say the breakdown in talks may be due to "brinkmanship" as Sun and IBM look to solidify their own positions in negotiations. However, if that’s the case, such a move may backfire for Sun.

"We do think that a collapse in the talks has considerably weakened Sun’s hand," Sacconaghi says.

News reports of IBM acquiring Sun first surfaced on March 18. Sun shares were trading at $4.97 the day before word of the negotiations were first reported.  News reports placed the original offer price at $9.55 per share, but that over this past weekend IBM had lowered that offer to $9.50 per share. Both offers represent a premium over Sun’s share price, which had risen to $8.49 on Friday, April 3.

Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com