Tech M&As 2008: All the top deals

As the economic slowdown became more apparent in 2008, the leading names in the IT industry stepped up their acquisition efforts, looking to consolidation to boost market share and diversify.

If 2008 had gone to plan, then the year would have been dominated by Microsoft's multi-billion dollar takeover of internet portal Yahoo.

Despite all the right noises being made, the deal ultimately collapsed, saving Microsoft from a costly mistake and ultimately costing Yahoo its chief executive and a large portion of its share value.

Nonetheless, the year was a major one for takeovers and mergers as companies looked to consolidate in areas such as desktop computers, increase market share and acquire technology for future products and services.

The year began with the completion of a deal first announced in November 2007. IBM's $5 billion (3.75 billion) acquisition of business intelligence vendor Cognos cleared the final hurdle, being accepted by 99.8 per cent of Cognos' shareholders. The year saw numerous smaller acquisitions by IBM in the software sector as Big Blue further diversified into software to support its server and services businesses.

US broadcasting giant Time Warner undid the biggest merger in the dot com era when it cut loose the internet service AOL, ending one of the least successful mergers in history.In 2001, the two made history when they announced a $164 billion (83.6 billion) merger to create a new media company with interests in everything from movies to cable TV to internet access. It failed to deliver and dragged the value of both businesses down.

AOL is now being touted as a possible takeover target for other internet companies including Google and Yahoo, as well as generating interest from Microsoft and News Corporation.

EMC launched a surprise takeover bid for consultancy firm Conchango, the latest in a long line of acquisitions for the storage company aimed at diversifying its business and building up its software arm.

Valued at only 42 million, the deal was unlikely to shake the foundations of the industry, but was nonetheless very strategic for storage specialist EMC. Adding Conchango to its existing US-based Microsoft consultancy practice would give it global consulting coverage and improve its professional services presence in the UK and Europe.

May kicked off with telecoms giant Cable & Wireless making a successful move on embattled Scottish enterprise telco Thus. As part of C&W's plans to focus more on core networking services and servicing large enterprise customers, Thus was seen as a good fit.

Thus, which also owns Demon Internet, the ISP that kick-started the internet revolution in the UK eventually succumbed to C&W's advances a month later.

Another move into professional services, this time from Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) vendor NetSuite. The fast-growing hosted business software provider snapped up OpenAir, a privately-owned company specialising in selling internet-based software to consulting and professional services companies.

NetSuite spent the rest of 2008 increasing its professional services activities as it looked to see its product suite to larger companies in the US and Europe.

Nokia surprised the industry with a deal to buy out the remaining shareholders of handset software firm Symbian.

Symbian's software is used in two-thirds of smartphones and six per cent of all mobile phones, but new platforms such as Android from Google and Apple's iPhone, as well as Microsoft's Windows Mobile, are challenging its dominance. Nokia plans to unite the various Symbian-based platforms into a single OS and make it open source.

The move, if successful, will increase adoption of Symbian by handset makers and allow it to compete in the crowded smartphone software market.

Consolidation in the networking space as Brocade snapped up fellow enterprise and carrier-grade switch vendor Foundry Networks for around $3 billion (2 billion). The deal was a classic example of IT hardware consolidation as well as signalling the need to get big in order to compete with Cisco, the 800 pound gorilla of the networking sector.

Having dabbled for years with large scale acquisition plans in the professional and IT services sectors, HP finally executed a successful bid, landing EDS for $12.6 billion (8.4 billion).

As one of the pioneers of the outsourcing of managed computer services, EDS has been at the forefront of IT services on both sides of the Atlantic for the past two decades. It has had a hand in both successful and failed public sector IT projects.

The deal would ultimately deliver a sting in the tail after HP announced a record 25,000 redundancies worldwide as a result of combining the workforces of the two companies.

In a busy year for acquisitions at HP, it splashed out another $360 million (204 million) to acquire storage virtualisation and iSCSI SAN specialist LeftHand Networks.

HP's storage business is one of its strongest enterprise computing units and the addition of LeftHand adds intelligent cloning technology to HP's product portfolio that can reduce disk space requirements in certain virtualised scenarios by as much as 97 per cent. HP also hopes to beef up its midrange iSCSI portfolio.

In an effort to curb debt and compete more effectively with arch rival Intel, chip maker AMD announced a break-up and sell off plan that will transform it into a chip design and developer.

The crux of the deal involved selling off its manufacturing facilities to a new company called Foundry Company, backed with cash from the Middle East. The new company will make chips for AMD, as well as taking on chip manufacturing contracts from other companies, including those that compete directly with AMD.

The new venture will assume all $1.2 billion (666 millon) of debt associated with AMD's manufacturing operations, investing at least $5.7 billion (3.16 billion) to buy the manufacturing facilities.

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