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2016 mergers and acquisitions in tech: Our top 5 picks

We look back at the torrid pace of 2016 mergers and acquisitions in tech. Here are the top five deals and a post-mortem on last year's history-making Dell-EMC merger.

Tech history was made in 2016: Mergers and acquisitions reached new heights as Dell Inc. completed its $60 billion acquisition of EMC Corp. on Sept. 7.  

The deal, announced in 2015, is the biggest tech merger of all time, and Dell Technologies, the world's largest privately controlled tech company, was born.

"It's a win-win for Dell and EMC," Gartner analyst Werner Zurcher said in an email interview. "Besides a new CEO [Michael Dell], Dell Technologies gives EMC a low-cost server vendor association to leverage. ... EMC gives Dell a very profitable IT vendor that generates billions in cash per year to take private and help pay the bondholder bills, VMware and Pivotal as software platforms, many more software and hardware developers, a phenomenal enterprise sales organization and a cloud story." 

Werner Zurcher, Gartner analystWerner Zurcher

In 2016, mergers and acquisitions in tech came fast and furiously with megamillion to multibillion dollars deals aplenty. Tech's hot merger pace is being driven by many factors, including a lot of cash and low interest rates, and it is likely to continue into 2017, according to Gartner analyst Ted Corbett. October was a record month for deal making, with almost half a trillion dollars of mergers and acquisitions announced worldwide, according to a Bloomberg report.

Below is SearchCIO's list of the top five technology mergers in 2016 beyond the Dell-EMC deal, with analysis from industry observers.

2016 mergers and acquisitions in tech

1. Softbank scoops up ARM Holdings

On Sept. 5, Japanese tech giant and Sprint owner SoftBank made the most expensive purchase of a European technology company when it completed the acquisition of U.K.-based chip designer ARM. The majority of smartphones and tablets, as well as a range of other smart devices from self-learning thermostats to self-driving cars, use ARM technology. SoftBank is expected to leverage the deal to fortify its internet of things (IoT) plans.

Ted Corbett, Garntner analystTed Corbett

The $31 billion acquisition was first announced in July

"It's a very surprising deal since Softbank is not a semiconductor company," Gartner research director Roger Sheng said in an email interview. "ARM's architecture is widely used in IoT and mobile devices, which can help Softbank to expand its footprint in the emerging markets. It will also enable Softbank to work with Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and other big companies to develop new silicon for their customized applications."

2. Microsoft-LinkedIn merger strives to change the way that people work

Roger Sheng, Gartner research directorRoger Sheng

Microsoft officially closed its $26.2 billion acquisition of professional networking site LinkedIn on Dec. 8, marking the largest acquisition in Microsoft's history. The deal was first announced on June 13.

"It's a great deal because it's taking the rich data insights and analytics that LinkedIn is gathering from their users on a daily basis; Microsoft will have the ability to marry that data with CRM [customer relationship management] data, gaining a single view of the customer with Microsoft Dynamics," said Mary Shea, principal analyst at Forrester.

"From a CRM standpoint and the way B2B companies want to increasingly engage with their customers in a more personalized way, the marrying of behavioral data with internal data is one step that will help sellers have more rewarding engagements with their customer and prospects," she said.

Mary Shea, Forrester principal analystMary Shea

Shea sees the acquisition as a reflection of Microsoft's commitment to the enterprise customer and realization that current and future customers expect to interact with business productivity tools as seamlessly as they do with their favorite social networks.

By consolidating 433 million LinkedIn profiles into its own service offerings, Microsoft will have access to information detailing how individuals use products like Office 365, email and Skype, according to Forrester.

3. CenturyLink inks $24 billion deal with Level 3 Communications

The news of telecom company CenturyLink, based in Monroe, La., agreeing to acquire Level 3 Communications for $24 billion in cash and stock hit the stands on Oct. 31.

"Here we have a merger of two second-tier carriers, both seeking greater scale to better compete with first-tier providers [like AT&T and Verizon] in the enterprise segment," Gartner's Corbett said in an email interview.

In a move designed to help fund the purchase of Level 3, CenturyLink announced on Nov. 4 that it is selling its data centers and colocation business to a consortium led by BC Partners for $2.3 billion.  

Danellie Young, Gartner analystDanellie Young

"This deal [with Level 3 Communications] is going to nearly double CenturyLink's global connectivity," Gartner analyst Danellie Young said. "It's going to increase CenturyLink's network coverage, especially in Latin America, and also help them expand their U.S. metro coverage with minimum national cable run overlap. Also, being able to combine Level 3's SIP [Session Initiation Protocol] services and CenturyLink's software-defined wide-area network is going to be important."

CenturyLink's acquisition of Level 3 Communications is subject to regulatory approvals and is expected to close by the end of the third quarter in 2017.

4. Oracle boosts its cloud strategy with NetSuite Inc. acquisition 

Tech giant Oracle completed its $9.3 billion acquisition of California-based cloud software provider NetSuite on Nov. 7, making it the largest software-as-a-service (SaaS) acquisition to date. The deal, announced on July 28, is Oracle's biggest since buying PeopleSoft for $10.3 billion in 2005.

Paul Hamerman, Forrester analystPaul Hamerman

"The acquisition provides a substantial boost to Oracle's SaaS revenue as it scrambles to replace declining on-premises software revenues," Forrester analyst Paul Hamerman wrote in a report. "In addition, NetSuite gives Oracle a true multi-tenant SaaS platform that counterbalances the isolated tenancy model of the fusion-based cloud applications."

The addition of NetSuite to the Oracle family of cloud applications will also provide large enterprises with more cloud options, according to the same report.

5. Verizon-Yahoo: The most uncertain of the 2016 mergers and acquisitions?

Once upon a time, Yahoo ruled the search engine space. Then Google happened. Since then, the company has been plagued with serial mismanagement, job cuts and poor quarterly earnings. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, recruited in 2012 to save the day, failed to deliver results. When New Jersey-based telecom giant Verizon revealed on July 25 that it had reached a definitive agreement to acquire Yahoo's core internet business for $4.83 billion, the deal was widely viewed as a potential win-win -- helping Verizon compete with the likes of Google and Facebook for users and advertising domain in the digital content industry and spurring Yahoo's work in mobile, video, native advertising and social networking.

Shar VanBoskirk, Forrester analystShar VanBoskirk

Forrester analyst Shar VanBoskirk wrote in a blog post that a combined Verizon and Yahoo could "help manifest the omnichannel future we expect."

"If Verizon can manage this acquisition in a customer-first way, the combined entity would go a long way toward creating an experience concierge which could be really valuable to consumers and advertisers," VanBoskirk wrote.

The deal was expected to close in the first quarter of 2017, but after Yahoo revealed a 500-million user breach that was followed by the news of a billion-user breach, Verizon is trying to persuade Yahoo to amend the terms of the acquisition agreement.

"There is no assurance that the sale transaction will be consummated in a timely manner or at all," Yahoo said in its Securities and Exchange Commission filing after the news of the first hack surfaced.


Next Steps

Read how the race for silicon is driving 2016 mergers and acquisitions in tech.

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Read about the two recent Amazon acquisitions.

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