Summary:

Boutique investment house Rutberg & Company have released their numbers on VC and M&A activity in the mobile sector, and the figures confirm…

Mobile Money
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Boutique investment house Rutberg & Company have released their numbers on VC and M&A activity in the mobile sector, and the figures confirm that 2010 was a doozy.

Mobile now represents 34 percent of all tech venture capital, according to research from CapitalIQ.

The average value per deal has gone up sharply. Overall, VC activity for 2010 totalled $6.1 billion covering 416 financings. 2010′s figures were nearly as high as 2006′s numbers, which were a ten-year high of $6.4 billion. What’s interesting is that the while the value of average deals has nearly tripled over the year before, the number of deals hasn’t even doubled: in 2009 overall VC activity totalled $2.1 billion covering 269 financings; and in 2008 it was $2.8 billion for 284 financings.

What’s clear too is that a handful of deals are disporportionately big compared to the rest. Carriers often make up the biggest individual investments. These accounted more than one-third the value of all deals, at $2.3 billion. But that sum covers only 9 deals. Meanwhile, private mobile companies accounted for $3.8 billion, covering 407 deals. That works out to an average value per deal of over $9.3 million — still a high number, partly because, carrier infrastructure, another disproportionately high-value area, is included. (We’ve asked Rutberg if they also have a figure for the median value too.) Update: Rajeev Chand, head of research for Rutberg, got back to us to say that the median deal size per round was $5.6 million in 2010 $10 million in 2006. “The median deal size in mobile has declined materially over the last two years, as mobile consumer applications require less capital to get started and to grow,” he said.

Notable is that consumer mobile applications accounted for 9.8 percent of total 2010 investment, working out to $601.6 million.

Who were the most active investors? Rutberg says that among investors, Intel (NSDQ: INTC) Capital was the most active, with 20 investments made in 2010, covering companies as diverse as Aurora Feint, Mobixell , July Systems and Mirics Semiconductor. Sequoia Capital had 14 investments, including Evernote, MobileIon and Snaptu. Accel rounded out the top three with 10 investments. Strategic investments are continuing to play a major role with Qualcomm (NSDQ: QCOM) Ventures and Cisco Systems (NSDQ: CSCO) also seeing a lot of activity.

In the M&A space, Google (NSDQ: GOOG) was the most active acquirer in terms of number of transactions (but not necessarily by value — Rutberg doesn’t break this out), followed by Ericsson (NSDQ: ERIC), RIM (NSDQ: RIMM) and Apple (NSDQ: AAPL). The most valuable transaction was Telefonica’s purchase of Portugal Telecom’s stake in Brasilcel for $9.75 billion.

A kind of gold-rush fever seems to have hit the finance world, as consumer usage, mobile traffic and the number of advanced mobile devices have boomed. People are begnning to think of mobile as potentially the primary platform for computing and getting connected. As Rajeev Chand, head of research for Rutberg, notes: “What RIM did for e-mail, iPhone and Android are doing for all of computing.”

It has also helped that mobile’s developing a very strong track record for big exits. Witness recent deals:
Starent (sold to Cisco for $2.9 billion),
Atheros (sold to Qualcomm for $3.1 billion),
AdMob (bought by Google for $750 million),
Quattro (sold to Apple for $275 million), and
ngmoco (sold to Japanese games company DeNA for nearly $400 million).

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