Check out that one-day stock chart for communications chip manufacturer Atheros. Shares took off with about an hour left in trading after the New York Times’ DealBook blog reported that Qualcomm is in talks to buy the company for $3.5 billion, or $45 a share.
If the deal goes through, it would be a very savvy one for Qualcomm, especially with CES about to start. Atheros has been busy announcing a series of new wireless chip products for tablets. In case you haven’t heard, Las Vegas is going to be silly with new tablets as just about every gadget maker not named after the Garden of Eden’s forbidden fruit tries to convince consumers that their tablet is infinitely cooler than that little iPad thang.
Qualcomm hasn’t been that acquisitive of a company in the past. So the fact that The Mighty Q may be looking to make a deal is extremely interesting. Qualcomm can clearly afford to pay up for Atheros without having to use stock. It has more than $10 billion on its balance sheet. That should please shareholders. In fact, Qualcomm’s stock was up slightly after the NYT report broke.
But you have to wonder if another chip company may also want to make a play for Atheros. At the very least, the deal could cause Broadcom, Texas Instruments or Marvell Technology to start looking for smaller wireless chip companies trying to capitalize on tablet mania. So don’t be surprised if investment bankers outnumber tech journalists at CES. Okay. That’s probably a stretch. — Paul