Thanks to The Byrds, we’re all familiar with the biblical admonition that “to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Less well known is a version of the Solomonic verse songwriter Pete Seeger did not borrow for his classic “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” which posits that there also is “a time to pluck up that which is planted.”
With AT&T’s $85.4 billion bid to buy Time Warner (Fortune parent Time Inc.’s former owner), it is quite clear we are in the season of plucking. Like no time in recent memory, the strong are buying the less strong. This is true across the economy, but particularly in technology. Verizon is gobbling up a diminished Yahoo. Salesforce, a voracious buyer, made a run at Twitter. Facebook has pursued a portfolio-theory approach to acquisitions. Stalwarts like IBM, Oracle, and SAP are reliable bidders when software competitors reach critical mass. Intel, growth in its mainstay business stalled, has been gobbling up competitors. A rejuvenated Microsoft, not historically the most skilled acquirer, stepped up big to buy LinkedIn.
Why now? Low interest rates make capital cheap. Technology leaders benefit from the two-pronged advantage of generous valuations and unprecedented piles of cash. Moreover, as David Gelles deftly notes in The New York Times, corporate leaders are confident in the economy as well as the status quo represented by a presumed Hillary Clinton presidency.
The sky is the limit for what comes next. Apple reportedly kicked the tires at Time Warner, an indication the tech giant once averse to megadeals could be ready to put its massive balance sheet to work. (Dreamers drool for an Apple purchase of Netflix or Tesla—or both.) According to keeping-up-with-the-Joneses theory, Disney needs a deal, despite having already bought every creative enterprise in sight. Analyst Rich Greenfield of BTIG thinks Comcast, devourer of NBC Universal, now needs a wireless operator to match AT&T. “Can Comcast really resist buying T-Mobile?” he wrote over the weekend.
Have a plucky week.
BITS AND BYTES
Get ready to pay more for Microsoft software in Britain. Businesses will see cloud services prices rise up to 22% after Jan. 1, a change that reflects the falling value of the pound after the country’s decision to leave the European Union. Prices for traditional software licenses will go up around 13%. (Reuters)
Blockchain earns more mainstream validation. The technology that secures and logs Bitcoin cryptocurrency transactions was used to broker a cross-border shipment of cotton between the United States and China. Plus, Chain, an emerging blockchain system used by the likes of Visa, Nasdaq, Fidelity, Capital One, and Citigroup is opening up its software code to other companies. (Reuters, Fortune)
Attack of the webcams. Chinese firm Hangzhou Xiongmai Technology, which makes parts for surveillance cameras, is recalling some of products after linking them to the massive hack-attack that took down huge portions of the Internet last Friday. (Reuters, New York Times)
Advisory firm opposes ascension of Samsung’s heir apparent. Sustinvest is advising shareholders to vote Thursday against the nomination of Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee, who was nominated in September to replace his father, Lee Kun-hee. It believes he benefits too much from “inter-affiliate” transactions. (Bloomberg)
PEOPLE AND CULTURE
Co-founder of PC Magazine and Macworld dies at 69. David Bunnell, a journalist who started his career with little formal technical training, was an influential force in chronicling the early days of the personal computing industry. The cause was pancreatic cancer. (New York Times)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
AT&T’s Time Warner Deal Comes at a Huge Cost, by Stephen Gandel
How Hackers Make Money from Denial of Service Attacks, by David Z. Morris
Apple Mac Speculation Heats Up as iPhone 7 Catches Fire, by Don Reisinger
Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer Chimes in on Twitter and Satya Nadella, by Jonathan Vanian