2014 by numbers: 22 top tech acquisitions, from US$82m to US$67bn

27 Dec 2014

Photo by YURALAITS ALBERT/Shutterstock

In the first of our year-end series trying to make sense of 2014 by numbers, we look back at more than 20 of the year’s biggest tech buyouts.

Snapping up a tech company for less than US$1bn these days is equivalent to picking up a bargain. Let’s not forget, this is an industry where a driver-hiring app is valued at US$40bn and a generic top-level domain creates a multi-billion-dollar bidding war between tech giants.

Starting at prices under US$1bn (bargain basement) to spree prices in the tens of billions, here’s a count-up of the year’s biggest tech acquisitions, some finalised and some still in progress as of 12 December 2014.

US$82m – FeedHenry

Acquired by: Red Hat
Announced: September 2014
Status: Pending

FeedHenry, which is headed by Cathal McGloin, spun out from Waterford Institute of Technology’s Telecommunications Software and Systems Group (TSSG) in 2010. The company creates a mobile-first platform for organisations that offers developers the flexibility to create native (Android, iOS, Windows Phone and BlackBerry), hybrid, HTML5 or web apps.

US$134m – Gnip

Acquired by: Twitter
Announced: August 2014
Status: Pending

Gnip collects tweets from Twitter users, compiles them into data sets, and provides them to companies and organisations who use the data for several purposes, such as research or to tailor advertising. The company was a Twitter partner for four years preceding its acquisition.

US$200m – SmartThings

Acquired by: Samsung Electronics
Announced: July 2014
Status: Pending

SmartThings has the best of both worlds: a smart home platform and the devices to interact with it. The start-up is dedicated to maintaining SmartThings as an open platform to ensure there are few limits facing users who wish to connect to their devices. The company originally raised funding through Kickstarter and then investment of more than US$15m followed from Greylock Partners, Highland Capital Partners, First Round and others.

US$200m – Acompli

Acquired by: Microsoft
Announced: December 2014
Status: Complete

Acompli as an app is one of the most popular of its kind for accessing email, particularly Microsoft’s, and is designed with a focus on mobile interaction with email, rather than as simply a reader before switching to a desktop version.

US$640m – BrightRoll

Acquired by: Yahoo!
Announced: November 2014
Status: Pending

BrightRoll powers digital video advertising for some of the world’s largest brands, including 87 of the top 100 US advertisers and 18 of the top 20 advertising technology companies.

Marissa Mayer, CEO, Yahoo

Marissa Mayer, CEO, Yahoo!

US$800m – Fotolia

Acquired by: Adobe
Announced: December 2014
Status: Pending

Fotolia is a privately held marketplace for royalty-free photos, images, graphics and HD video. Following its acquisition, Fotolia will be integrated into the Adobe Creative Cloud, though Adobe also plans to continue to operate Fotolia as a standalone stock service that anyone can access.

US$900m – Viber Media

Acquired by: Rakuten
Announced: February 2014
Status: Unknown

Cyprus-based Viber Media is responsible or the messaging app Viber, which has close to 300m registered users, 100m of them active monthly.

US$970m – Twitch

Acquired by: Amazon
Announced: August 2014
Status: Completed on 26 September 2014

Twitch lets users upload and watch live gameplay videos from their PC or Xbox and PlayStation consoles, or tune in for TV shows from partners. Twitch has 50m monthly active users and more than 1.1m players upload videos monthly, amounting to more than 13bn minutes of video uploaded per month.

US$1.1bn – O2 Ireland

Acquired by: Three
Announced: June 2013
Status: Formally concluded 15 July 2014

O2 Ireland or Telefónica Ireland is a broadband and telecommunications provider in Ireland trading under the O2 brand. Prior to becoming a subsidiary of Telefónica in 2006, the company was owned by Esat Telecommunications and operated under the name Esat Digifone.

US$1.1bn – Mandiant

Acquired by: FireEye
Announced: January 2014
Status: Unknown

Mandiant commanded the world’s attention in February 2013 when it reported on a Chinese government-sponsored cyberespionage campaign and was since acknowledged as a leader in endpoint security, incident response, and remediation, with more than 2m endpoints installed globally.

US$1.47bn – VKontakte

Acquired by: Mail.ru Group
Announced: September 2014
Status: Pending

Known as ‘the Russian Facebook’, VKontakte is a social networking platform available in a number of languages but particularly popular among Russian-speaking users. The network hosts an online community of more than 92m users around the world with the majority coming from Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine.

US$2bn – Oculus VR

Acquired by: Facebook
Announced: March 2014
Status: Completed on 21 July 2014

Oculus VR burst onto the scene in 2012 when it raised US$2.4m via crowdfunding on Kickstarter for its Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. The technology, which is still under development, has since been adopted for Samsung’s Gear VR headset.

Brendan Iribe, CEO, Oculus VR

Brendan Iribe, CEO, Oculus VR

US$2.1bn – IBM’s x86 server business

Acquired by: Lenovo
Announced: January 2014
Status: Pending

Lenovo announced its decision to buy IBM’s complete x86 portfolio – including all IBM x86 product lines, its x86 sales force and support capabilities, and its R&D labs and manufacturing resources – in January, with a view to completing the transition in early 2015. A strategic alliance was established between the two companies, allowing Lenovo to act as an original equipment manufacturer to IBM.

US$2.5bn – Mojang

Acquired by: Microsoft
Announced: September 2014
Status: Completed on 6 November 2014

Mojang is the Swedish company behind Minecraft, a game that has proven popular across all platforms with children and adults alike, selling more than 16m copies and making more than US$100m in 2013. Often described as a digital version of Lego, a Minecraft movie is in development at Warner Bros. involving some of the brains behind the successful The Lego Movie.

US$2.5bn – CSR

Acquired by: Qualcomm
Announced: October 2014
Status: Pending

UK Bluetooth specialist CSR previously spurned an acquisition offer from Microchip Technology because the asking price wasn’t high enough. Qualcomm’s cash offer was unanimously accepted by CSR’s board of directors and Qualcomm plans to use the firm’s Bluetooth and audio processing technology to strengthen its position in the internet of things.

US$2.9bn – Motorola Mobility

Acquired by: Lenovo
Announced: January 2014
Status: Completed on 30 October 2014

Google acquired Motorola Mobility in 2011 for US$12.5bn, its biggest acquisition to date, which also gave Google ownership of a vast trove of patents covering wireless devices, wireless networks, and physical fixed-line networks, which some estimate to be worth US$6bn. Google maintains control of these patents following the latest acquisition, in which Lenovo will receive a licence to this rich portfolio of patents and other intellectual property. Additionally, Lenovo will receive more than 2,000 patent assets, as well as the Motorola Mobility brand and trademark portfolio.

US$3bn – Beats Electronics

Acquired by: Apple
Announced: May 2014
Status: Completed on 1 August 2014

Beats Electronics and its sub-entity Beats Music was co-founded by music producer Jimmy Iovine and hip-hop royalty Dr. Dre, both of whom are considered pioneers in the music industry. Chiefly known for its high-end headphones, the company also developed a music subscription service to rival Apple’s own platform, iTunes.

Apple CEO Tim Cook and SVP Eddy Cue with Beats co-founders Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre

Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Beats co-founder Dr. Dre and Apple SVP Eddy Cue

US$3.2bn – Nest Labs

Acquired by: Google
Announced: January 2014
Status: Completed on 7 February 2014

Nest Labs was founded in 2010 by Tony Fadell, one of the ‘fathers of the iPod’, with a mission to reinvent devices in the home, starting with sensor-driven, Wi-Fi-enabled, self-learning thermostats and smoke detectors.

US$3.7bn – Sapient

Acquired by: Publicis Groupe
Announced: November 2014
Status: Pending

Sapient is a marketing and consulting company born in the technology space providing business, marketing, communications, consulting omni-channel commerce and technology services for its clients. The new platform formed as a result of the Publicis Groupe acquisition will be known as Publicis.Sapient.

US$7.1bn – Nokia Devices and Services

Acquired by: Microsoft
Announced: September 2013
Status: Completed on 25 April 2014

Following the formal conclusion of Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia’s Devices and Services business, a new subsidiary company – Microsoft Mobile Oy – was formed. Microsoft Mobile Oy develops, manufactures and distributes Lumia, Asha and Nokia X mobile phones and other devices.

US$19bn – WhatsApp

Acquired by: Facebook
Announced: February 2014
Status: Completed on 6 October 2014

Founded in 2009, WhatsApp’s cross-platform messaging app is the world’s most popular, with more than 600m active users across iOS, Android, Windows and BlackBerry devices. Its deal with Facebook marked the largest-ever acquisition of a venture-backed start-up. At the time of the announcement, both Facebook and WhatsApp confirmed that WhatsApp would continue operating independently.

Jan Koum, CEO and co-founder, WhatsApp

Jan Koum, CEO and co-founder, WhatsApp. Photo via Shutterstock

US$67bn – DirecTV

Acquired by: AT&T
Announced: May 2014
Status: Unknown

Satellite TV brand DirecTV is the largest pay-TV provider in the US and Latin America, with 20m paying customers in the US alone. DirecTV’s satellite technology is a strong competitive alternative to cable, giving AT&T a reach that extends beyond large cities. Another trigger cited for the deal was Comcast’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable in February.

Main business meeting image by YURALAITS ALBERT/Shutterstock

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.