Elliot’s Novell buyout approach to making money

March 3, 2010

When activist hedge fund Elliott Associates made its unsolicited offer for business software maker Novell public on Tuesday, the thinking among analysts and reporters was that Elliott didn’t t really intend to buy the company, but rather force it into running a sale process and eventually finding a bigger tech company — like an HP or a Microsoft — to buy it. That may well be how it plays out, but Elliott spokesman Scott Tagliarino said that the firm is dead serious about its offer.

In fact, Elliott is no stranger to this type of deal, having made similar offers to a handful of small tech companies in the past. Typically, it owns large stakes in the companies it goes after. Last year, it was part of a private equity team that acquired MSC Software for about $360 million.

Elliott also offered to buy Packeteer, another small Nasdaq-listed tech company it owned a large stake in, but it was eventually acquired by Blue Coat Systems in 2008. Another company Elliott went after was Epicor Software, but that bid was unsuccessful.

In 2006, Elliott was part of a group led by tech-focused private equity firm Francisco Partners that took bar-code scanner maker Metrologic private. Two years later, Honeywell acquired Metrologic for $720 million.

Novell seems to be the biggest tech company Elliott has gone after. What does the future hold for the company? Clearly, the market is expecting more, given that shares are trading today at $6.02, up nearly 27 percent. Elliott’s offer is for $5.75 per share, or about $2 billion. Expect a lot of back-and-forth on this one.

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