Will Brocade find a buyer now?

October 6, 2009

One theory is doing the rounds about why the Brocade-shopping-itself story found its way into the press when it did. People familiar with the matter have told Reuters that Brocade has been up for sale for weeks; one person said Brocade began sending out feelers to potential acquirers nearly two months ago.

Hewlett-Packard is said to have looked at Brocade, as did Oracle. One source said on Monday that HP went as far as to begin due diligence. But from what I hear, no one has found Brocade compelling enough to shell out a few billion dollars on the spot. If anything, HP could be interested in some of the assets of Brocade rather than the whole company, which could be why it stopped short of making an offer.

Other potential acquirers include IBM and Juniper, which is the No. 2 network equipment maker after Cisco, but bankers and analysts think neither company is likely to step in. From what I understand, IBM has not looked at Brocade, although that could change any minute.

Given this picture, you’ve got to wonder if Brocade and/or Qatalyst Partners, the firm reportedly hired by the networking and data storage company to shop it, strategically leaked the news after failing to find a buyer. Companies and their advisers are known to use the media to float trial balloons, put pressure on potential acquirers to step up and make a bid, test investor appetite for acquisition ideas and even drive up the acquisition price.

One banker called it the “European” style of M&A, where “people constantly create and leak rumors to build the perception of action.”

Rumor or not, the market clearly wants a sale, going by the 19 percent jump in Brocade’s stock on Monday. A Qatalyst spokeswoman declined to confirm that Frank Quattrone‘s firm has been hired.

As for who might buy Brocade? We’re all working overtime to find out.

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