IBM has agreed to acquire US software company Red Ha for $34 billion, including debt, as it seeks to diversify its technology hardware and consulting business into higher-margin products and services. The transaction is by far IBM’s biggest acquisition. It underscores IBM Chief Executive Ginni Rometty’s efforts to expand the company’s subscription-based software offerings, as it faces slowing software sales and waning demand for mainframe servers.
IBM, which has a market capitalization of $114 billion, will pay $190 per share in cash for Red Hat, a 63% premium to the last closing share price before the deal was announced. Founded in 1993, Red Hat specializes in Linux operating systems, the most popular type of open-source software, which was developed as an alternative to proprietary software made by Microsoft Corp.
Headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina, Red Hat charges fees to its corporate customers for custom features, maintenance and technical support, offering IBM a lucrative source of subscription revenue. Red Hat is one of the very few companies in the cloud computing sector that has both revenue growth and free cash flow, Rometty, who has been IBM’s CEO since 2012, said in an interview with Reuters: “This acquisition we are clearly doing for growth synergies. This is not about cost synergies at all,” Rometty said in the interview.
The acquisition illustrates how older technology companies are turning to dealmaking to gain scale and fend off competition, especially in cloud computing, where customers using enterprise software are seeking to save money by consolidating their vendor relationships. IBM is hoping the deal will help it catch up with Amazon, Alphabet and Microsoft in the rapidly growing cloud business. IBM shares have lost almost a third of their value in the past five years, while Red Hat shares are up 170% over the same period.