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IBM To Acquire Software Company Red Hat For $34 Billion

The acquisition underscores the company’s efforts to expand subscription-based software offerings, as it faces slowing software sales and waning demand for mainframe servers.

NEW YORK – IBM Corp said on Sunday it had agreed to acquire US software company Red Hat Inc 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 percent premium to Friday’s closing share price.

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.com Inc, Alphabet Inc 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 percent over the same period.

“This deal represents the culmination of IBM’s existing partnership with Red Hat, and, in our view, allows IBM to gain a highly strategic asset to advance its hybrid cloud initiatives,” Barclays analysts wrote in a research note.

They added that for the deal to work, it was important for IBM to uphold Red Hat’s neutrality when it came to operating platforms and maintain Red Hat’s open-source and multi-cloud position in the market.

IBM was founded in 1911 and is known in the technology industry as Big Blue, a reference to its once ubiquitous blue computers. It has faced years of revenue declines, as it transitions its legacy computer maker business into new technology products and services. Its recent initiatives have included artificial intelligence and business lines around Watson, named after the supercomputer it developed.

To be sure, IBM is no stranger to acquisitions. It acquired cloud infrastructure provider Softlayer in 2013 for $2 billion, and the Weather Channel’s data assets for more than $2 billion in 2015. It also acquired Canadian business software maker Cognos in 2008 for $5 billion.

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