In a monumental move to reinforce its presence in the ever-evolving world of cybersecurity, Cisco Systems, Inc. (CSCO.O) recently announced its acquisition of Splunk Inc. (SPLK.O) for a staggering $28 billion. This landmark deal is not only Cisco’s largest to date but also a strategic maneuver to strengthen its software division and capitalize on the burgeoning utilization of artificial intelligence (AI) in the tech industry.
This acquisition represents a significant shift in Cisco’s business strategy. For years, Cisco has been predominantly known for its networking equipment business, which, unfortunately, faced challenges due to supply chain issues and a post-pandemic slowdown in demand. This move to acquire Splunk is aimed at diversifying its portfolio and reducing its dependence on the networking sector.
Powerhouses Join Forces
Cisco, a tech giant with a market capitalization of $225 billion as of its most recent fiscal year, is renowned for its profitability and global influence. In contrast, Splunk, founded in 2003 and publicly traded since 2012, has had its share of financial struggles, reporting a $63 million loss in the last quarter.
Despite these challenges, Splunk has garnered significant attention from investors, with its shares surging by nearly 40% prior to the acquisition announcement, thanks to growing interest in AI. However, they still remained nearly 50% below their peak in 2020.
This acquisition comes at an interesting time for the merger and acquisition (M&A) landscape. The first half of 2023 has seen a surprising lull in M&A activity, resembling levels not seen since the first half of 2020, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) data. This Cisco-Splunk deal stands out as a substantial exception.
Cisco’s offer of $157 in cash for each share of Splunk represents a generous 31% premium over the company’s last closing price, indicating a high level of confidence in the acquisition’s potential.
A Transformational Partnership
A joint statement by both companies emphasizes the transformative nature of this partnership, stating, “Combined, Cisco and Splunk will become one of the world’s largest software companies and will accelerate Cisco’s business transformation to more recurring revenue.” This highlights their intention to evolve their revenue model towards a more sustainable, subscription-based structure.
Notably, Cisco and Splunk are not entering this partnership as strangers. They already have a data-security partnership in place, and Splunk boasts an impressive clientele, including industry heavyweights such as Coca-Cola (KO.N), Intel (INTC.O), and Porsche.
While Splunk experienced substantial revenue growth of nearly 40% last year, the year 2023 has presented a slowdown in demand across the industry due to rising interest rates and persistent inflation. This acquisition is, in part, a response to the challenges faced by Splunk and an effort to navigate these turbulent waters.
Past Attempts and Future Prospects
It’s worth noting that Cisco had previously made a more than $20 billion attempt to acquire Splunk in 2022, but the deal fell through, as reported by The Wall Street Journal. This successful acquisition is a testament to the changing dynamics in the tech industry and the increased importance of cybersecurity.
Antitrust and Cloud Concerns
While the merger holds great promise, the overlap in the security business could potentially attract antitrust scrutiny. Additionally, some analysts have raised concerns about Splunk’s transition to the cloud, describing it as “underwhelming.” These issues will likely be addressed as the acquisition progresses.
The acquisition has received unanimous approval from the boards of both Cisco and Splunk. It is anticipated to conclude by the end of the third quarter of 2024, pending regulatory approvals. Notably, it will not require approval from Chinese regulatory authorities.
In the event that the deal is abandoned, Cisco will be obligated to pay a termination fee of $1.48 billion.
This bold move by Cisco signifies its commitment to evolving with the tech landscape and staying at the forefront of the cybersecurity industry. It’s a significant step towards harnessing the power of AI-enabled security, which is increasingly vital in today’s digital age.