Network Appliance, AOL buy local tech

M&A momentum expected to continue.

aol 88 (photo credit: )
aol 88
(photo credit: )
The Israeli hi-tech industry once again proved its worth to high-profile shoppers as Wednesday saw in excess of $200 million spent on local technology companies in three separate deals. The day's activities saw giants in their fields - Network Appliance and AOL - buy blue and white, as well as an all-Israeli transaction between SuperCom and On-Track Innovations. "There's been a steady increase in M&A activity because there are great companies being built in Israel and, when you look back, seem to add a lot of value to their acquirers," said Gerald Segal, managing director of investment bank Leap Capital. "Investors want to see exits and Israel really is one of the few places in the world where you have systematic M&A exits with the acquirers being some of the world's leading companies in their fields of technology." Joining an already impressive list of companies tapping local technology, storage solutions provider Network Appliance agreed to acquire software and data replication company Topio for $160m., marking its first entry to the country outside its sales activities. Topio, funded mainly by foreign venture capital investments of around $20m., was founded in 2001 and, although headquartered in Santa Clara, California, still conducts its R&D activities in Haifa. It will continue to do so after the deal's expected close in December, the companies said. Topio develops software that helps customers replicate, recover and protect data over any distance regardless of the underlying server or storage infrastructure and its combination with NetApp data management solutions will enable enterprises to replicate their production data on any vendor system to any NetApp storage system, they said. Sunnyville, California-based Network Appliance was started in 1992 and has grown to have revenues of $2.07 billion in its 2006 fiscal year. Topio's 35 workers in Haifa and 25 others worldwide will join Network Appliances' workforce of 5,000 upon closing. In the second deal, Web services provider AOL said it acquired Tel Aviv-based Relegence Corporation for an undisclosed amount. Market sources said the value of the deal ranged between $50m. and $100m. Relegence was founded in 1999 as a provider of financial news and information search technology. Its 60 employees will continue to operate out of its Tel Aviv, New York and London offices as a subsidiary of AOL. The deal was AOL's fifth acquisition of the year and was closed on signing. Finally, SuperCom Ltd., an Israeli maker of secure identification documents, said it agreed to sell its biometric passport business to On Track Innovations Ltd. in a stock transaction valued at about $23m. OTI, an Israeli chip-card maker, agreed to issue 2.8 million of its shares to SuperCom for its smart-ID division, the Kadima-based SuperCom said. After the transaction is completed, SuperCom plans to focus on developing a mobile credentialing and access control system for first responders, municipalities and enterprises and well as tracking solutions based on radio frequency, it said. Meanwhile, Hewlett-Packard, this week closed its $4.5b. acquisition of Mercury Interactive and Sandisk's $1.55b. buyout of M-Systems received shareholder approval. The signing of these deals during the war in Lebanon this summer sent the message that Israeli tech is independent of any geopolitical issues. "There really aren't many places where the Ciscos, Intels, Network Appliances and HPs of the world are consistently and increasingly making acquisitions, as they are in Israel," Leap's Segal said. "Their success here is bringing more acquirers and, in turn, more investors." Bloomberg contributed to this report.