Akamai’s Cotendo deal a win
Investors are happy with the acquisition, which eliminates a key rival and helps Akamai gain control of important technology.
The move eliminates a key rival for Akamai in value-added services and also helps the company gain access to Cotendo's mobile acceleration technology. Founded in 2008 and backed by strategic partners such as Citrix, Juniper (JNPR), Google (GOOG) and AT&T (T), Cotendo has an impressive list of customers, including big names such as AT&T, Facebook and Zynga (ZNGA), that use its dynamic site acceleration (DSA) and application acceleration services.
The news was well-received by investors. Akamai's shares rose almost 20% following the news, and it held on to most of its gains to close at $31.63. The stock traded for $32.27 Tuesday morning. Our price estimate for Akamai is $31.74, in line with the market's current bullish sentiment.
Acquisition will help margins
Akamai had been the sole player in the content delivery market for many years before other Content Delivery Networks (CDN) such as Limelight Networks (LLNW) and Level 3 (LVLT) started offering services at cheaper rates. That shattered Akamai's monopoly and pressurized its margins. Its gross margins declined by a full percentage point last quarter, in spite of an increase in revenue.
The company has been offering value-added services as a way to differentiate itself from rivals and protect the margins of its core content delivery business. However, we believe the emergence of Cotendo as a key player in this specialized high-margin offering, especially after its deal with AT&T, started to threaten the moat Akamai was building around its CDN business. Acquiring Cotendo will minimize that risk for the time being before other competitors catch on.
With Akamai now controlling a vast market share, it will be able to price its value-added offerings higher and protect its overall margins. Cotendo priced its value-add services much cheaper than Akamai. Now, with lesser competition, Akamai may not want to renew Cotendo's existing contracts at those cheaper rates. (See Akamai's Cotendo deal would add margin upside & growth to current $33 value.)
Cotendo recently added a mobile acceleration suite to its value-added portfolio, a service we see huge potential in and think Akamai also has its eyes on. We expect this service to start being widely used as smartphones see mass adoption and increasingly replace the PC as the primary computing and networking vehicle, making it essential for content providers to provide a solution that speeds up delivery of mobile websites and applications. (see With Cotendo deal, Akamai takes out a competitor & gains mobile acceleration technology)
Needless to add, Akamai will also gain access to Cotendo's impressive clientele that now has few options outside Akamai. So, all in all, we see this as a good move by Akamai.
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The company has made at least 4 acquisitions in the space, and few people have paid any attention.
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