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Microsoft outdoes Google on acquisition front during first half of 2015

3 min read

23 July 2015

Former editor

The battle amongst global technology companies to stay ahead of the innovation curve has seen Microsoft up its activity and emerge as the leading technology acquirer during the beginning of the year.

Having only closed three transactions during the same six month period in 2014, Microsoft has bought eight businesses during the six months to 30 June 2015, placing it top of the pile.

Meanwhile, Google, which was particularly active in the first half of 2014 when it purchased 20 different firms, finished level with Twitter on seven M&A deals.

Findings from ICON Corporate Finance, which produces regular technology deal barometers, found that there were no “mega deals” from regular “heavyweights” such as Oracle, Cisco, IBM, Microsoft or or Google during the period – with the largest US deal being the $37bn purchase of Broadcom by Avago.

Google, ICON said, has approximately $65bn in cash – so can afford to “make a few bets” on next generation technology, particularly in the artificial intelligence, robotics, prediction and navigation spaces.

Google’s ten biggest acquisitions revealed

On a UK technology M&A front, ICON concluded that the IPO market was “understandably” quiet in the run-up to the election, but was now picking up. The flotation of IT security company Sophos was noted to be of particular significance, with the company now holding a valuation of $1.5bn.

Two key M&A strategy lessons which were learned during the first half of the year were: getting shareholder approval for an exit is unsurprisingly key for a successful M&A process; and competitive tension adds “significant value” to a transaction.

The largest UK acquisition during the first half of 2015 was the $2.35bn purchase of Telecity by Equinox, with the other billion dollar deal in the period being the sale of Pace to ARRIS for $1.4bn.

One of the biggest success stories was the £40m purchase of HideMyAss by AVG, at 3.5x revenues. Set up by Jack Cator when he was 16, it allows users to navigate round barriers and view restricted access.

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Brian Parker, head of M&A at ICON Corporate Finance, commented: “This is the sixth year of recovery in M&A market activity and there is no doubt a fair bit of exuberance about – particularly in the private equity funding rounds of Uber and Shazam etc. which seem to offer very little upside.

“Aside from that, there’s lots of activity in data analytics, mobile, video, health, security/compliance, fintech and managed services. Many tech companies continue to perform strongly – just look at the two new IPOs in London – Sophos and Kainos – which both grew revenues more than 20 per cent last year. In a world where growth is likely to remain elusive, the price for growth is likely to remain high.”