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Cisco Is Ready For Acquisitions… Again

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In 2008, Cisco Systems (s CSCO), typically one of the biggest shoppers in Silicon Valley bought only four companies, down from about 14 in 2007. In 2009, that stinginess might be coming to an end. In an interview with Barron’s Eric Savitz, Cisco CEO John Chambers noted that Cisco was always aggressive in buying companies during downturns because he thinks that is the best time. “Companies with cash are king, queen and the royal family,” he said, perhaps reminding the that he has $27 billion (in cash and short term investments) to spend.

Chambers told Savitz he expects consolidation in the networking sector, but said he is not interested in buying direct competitors. Makes sense — why buy when you can destroy them with your sales force? Instead, Cisco is focusing its energies on buying companies to expand into the consumer electronics arena. According to Reuters, Chambers has talked about making “stream of acquisitions” with focus on video. Chambers said a good acquisition for Cisco would be company that has 100 people and a product consumers are lining up to buy. While this Apple (s AAPL) envy might cost Cisco a few million, for some startups and their backers, Chambers’ words are nothing short of sweet music.

Question for our readers: Which startup(s) should Cisco buy?

25 Responses to “Cisco Is Ready For Acquisitions… Again”

  1. I thing a good approach would be a completely new market rather than joining and competing in an existing market.

    How about an application that will run on any platform and access any SQL based Database in a user-friendly approach. The potential market is enormous.

    Techabase is the first and only application accomplishing this.

    Just a thought.

  2. Cisco should buy BlueCoat Networks. They have a decent web filtering and WAN optimization line of products. They could also end up buying EMC to expand into datacenter technologies.

    Cisco has bought Ironport but I am not convinced with their buy. Are they trying to log in to email security ?

  3. I think there are very interesting companies to expand Cisco portfolio. Related to mobile infrastructure and solutions platforms:

    A big adquisition could be: SONUS, to expand their portfolio to next adoption of NGN (new generation networks and IMS) -> imrproving marketshare in telco equipment.
    A mid size opportunity: SONIM (OMA PTT Server + ruggorized handsets) -> powering enterprise communication
    As early stage companies doing interesting things in mobile:
    SOLAIEMES (spain), Red Herring finalist, they do platforms for multimedia solutions and multimodal interactions with no need of installing apps.
    DIAL2DO (ireland), selected for Mobile 2.0 (S.F), using voice call for whatever web/it systems interaction

  4. I think Cisco will add to its products portfolio in growth markets such as the datacenter, collaboration, video and consumer (to name a few) through a mixture of internal development and acquisition. The challenge on both these activities (internal R&D and acquisition) will be the pressure on earnings caused by the slowing economy.

    In M&A, the net of this will be an effort to buy high margin growth for reasonable prices. My instincts are that the datacenter and collaboration markets will be where Cisco will find opportunities that look attractive because of the impact of consumer spending fatigue in other areas.

  5. Having such a large cash pile to spend in a bust shows remarkable foresight (in this day and age).

    Buying a direct competitor is a decent option, not sure why it is being discarded.Sure ‘streamlining’ is a messy business and will distract customer focus in the short term..but the margin increase from grabbing an Alcatel-Lucent or a Motorolla and “streamlining” with CSCO businesses would pay for such a deal in less than a year.

    PS. I don’t hold any shares in any of these companies.

  6. Phillip D.

    What about solution that they can lay on their existing product line and leverage more revenue or positioning against the competition? In terms of making their routers smart, add some small filtering technologies to cleanse all those packets on the network before the client end in terms of web or email security. Malware and spam isn’t such hot tech anymore, but still a massive problem where an acquisition of little niche technology companies like Mail Foundry could fit nicely since they’re small (looks like less than 100 employees) and have their own IP and don’t portray any VC firms having a stake in them (simple google query finds nothing) and should be cheap to pickup. I’m sure there are plenty of companies out there like these folks who are ripe for the picking.

  7. What’s the problem with video?
    I mean the problem with audio was that people wanted to buy tracks instead of albums/CDs and pay a fair price. Napster had showed that very clearly, ok not the price part. Only the music industry ignored it as best as they could.
    Is there a company which has highlighted the problem with video and what people really want?

  8. Corvette Lover

    Here is a far out prediction: CSCO will buy Move Networks or Brightcove and or Visible Measures. These are the three biggest infrastructure opportunities in video (Move/Brightcove in video delivery and Visible Measures in analytics+data) and would be very interesting for CISCO’s video strategy long term.

  9. How about Drobo?
    Data Robotics, Inc.

    They make a CE storage device that allows home users to stripe their data across an array of HDs. Disclaimer: I’m overly interested in this CE space as I just had my first child and I’m quickly consuming photo/video space.

  10. Outside the Consumer Electronics segment, I believe that Cisco will acquire their strategic partner BMC Software which is an OEM vendor to Cisco in Data Center Automation. I believe that Cisco will want to control the entire data center infrastructure through a bold move into Enterprise Systems Management. This strategic acquisition will be much larger than any other in recent history, if ever.

    Otherwise, Cisco will maintain it’s strategy of acquiring small innovative companies of modest capitalization. Targets would include those hardware firms that optimize the flow and presentation of content. I don’t believe that Cisco is interested in being a content aggregator, much less an originator, but will be interested in delivery. Netflix could fit this model due to it’s recent push into partnerships for online delivery based on it’s subscription model.

  11. In my opinion, Cisco seems well-placed to start delivering software services layered over its own hardware to both enterprise and small business markets. This is a nice multi-segment market (mobile apps, CRM, video, storage, applications, etc.) and Cisco has had experience supporting the management and roll-out all of these services through its hardware sales and software partnerships.

  12. “Chambers said a good acquisition for Cisco would be company that has 100 people and a product consumers are lining up to buy”

    This line reminds of the late 1990’s / early 2000 – Cisco and others in their league would buy companies using a formula that went somehting like this – $1 million per “engineer” ( assuming there was a product). Of course that was networking gear – not consumer electronics. So does the recent statement from Chambers mean he is looking for acquisitions in the $100 million range? Or is he talking about being more lavish?

  13. CSCO acquisition list:
    * Palm
    * Sports & Entertainment (Can’t say)
    * CRM vendor (i.e. SugarCRM)
    * Video Search & Indexing
    *Middleware IPTV ?
    * Wildcard -Netflix (new tech for video streaming on the TV and not Set Top Box). Also, would allow for content

  14. Jesse Kopelman


    Qualcomm would cost way too much. The same thing for buying Motorola in its entirety. You might as well suggest Cisco buy Apple. Besides, it would be stupid to buy all of Moto to get their money losing handset business. Remember, there’s been talk of Motorola PAYING someone to take that division off their hands. Cisco should go after Motorola’s STB division (even if that goes against Chamber’s not wanting to buy direct competitors). It would give them pretty close to a monopoly with cable cos, but not with telcos — so I think the FTC wouldn’t get involved. Moto definitely needs the money and despite the Scientific Atlanta stuff that Cisco already bought being superior, it seems like Cisco hasn’t made much headway out of second place. Of course, it might make even more sense to go in exactly the opposite direction and buy 2Wire. No doubt that’s a better bang for the buck investment, but it is not a sexy big-time deal like Motorola’s STB division.

  15. Where in the supply chain does cisco see itself in the new world is the question I can’t get answer to. Cisco is not in the iPhone (smartphone) race now. So does it see itself as getting there(though one). Maybe acquire Motorola OR Qualcomm.

    Another one: how about acquiring something like Isnt Pandora the Consumer equivalent of Webex.