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Cisco acquires cybersecurity firm Splunk for $28B, its largest-ever acquisition

Cisco is making a big bet on cybersecurity, acquiring software company Splunk. The deal recently announced is worth about $28 billion in cash for $157 per share, making it the network equipment giant’s biggest acquisition to date. In a statement, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins said the deal would help “drive the next generation of AI-enabled security.”

Splunk’s technology helps businesses monitor and analyze their data to minimize the risk of hacks and resolve technical issues faster. Cisco has long been the world’s largest maker of computer networking equipment and has been bolstering its cybersecurity business to meet customer demands and fuel growth.

Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins emphasized the importance of artificial intelligence and using the power of AI that comes with Splunk’s technology to protect networks.

Our combined capabilities will drive the next generation of AI-enabled security and observability. From threat detection and response to threat prediction and prevention, we will help make organizations of all sizes more secure and resilient.

The deal is expected to close in the third quarter of 2024, and Cisco says it should improve gross margins in the first year and non-GAAP earnings in year two.

The purchase price is equivalent to about 13% of Cisco’s market cap, a big number for a company that has historically avoided blockbuster deals. Prior to Splunk, Cisco’s biggest deal ever was the $6.9 billion purchase of cable set-top box maker Scientific Atlanta in 2006. At the time, Cisco’s market cap was just over $100 billion.

But as the public cloud has gobbled more of Cisco’s traditional back-end business, the company has needed to find new and big revenue streams. Cybersecurity has been the biggest bet.

In fiscal 2022, Cisco changed the name of its core switching and routing business from Infrastructure Platforms to Secure, Agile Networks, focusing on the need to have security built into networking gear. The company has a separate reporting unit called End-to-End Security, consisting specifically of security products.

Cisco shares have underperformed the Nasdaq this year, rising 12% while the tech-heavy index has jumped 27%. Over the past five years, it’s been an even worse investment relative to the broader sector. The stock is up about 10% over that stretch, trailing the Nasdaq’s 66% gain.

We still have many large customers who are very dependent upon the capabilities that we allow for in a customer-managed environment.

Gary Steele, Splunk CEO

Steele joined Splunk a little over a year ago. Prior to that, he was CEO of Proofpoint, a cybersecurity firm that was acquired by private equity firm Thoma Bravo in 2021 for $12.3 billion.

If Cisco backs out of the deal or if it’s blocked by regulators, Cisco will pay Splunk a termination fee of $1.48 billion, according to a regulatory filing. Should Splunk walk away, it will pay a $1 billion breakup fee to Cisco.

In 2023, Cisco acquired four companies focused on security: Armorblox, a threat detection platform; Oort, which does identity management; and Valtix and Lightspin, both in cloud security.

Tidal Partners, Simpson Thacher, and Cravath, Swaine & Moore advised Cisco. Qatalyst Partners, Morgan Stanley, and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom advised Splunk.

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Cisco acquires cybersecurity firm Splunk for $28B, its largest-ever acquisition


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