Wheelings & Dealings: CBeyond Bought - Who's next?

By Doug Mohney April 21, 2014

Birch Communication announced it is purchasing Cbeyond today, April21, 2014, for $323 million in cash.  It's an interesting deal, but you haven't heard the last of Birch or Voice over IP (VoIP) mergers and acquisitions.  

Frankly, Birch hadn't been on my radar. Paying $323 million in cash for Cbeyond just set off the alarm bells.  It's hard for stockholders of any stripe to turn down cash, especially when it comes as a premium of nearly 41 percent over the closing price of Cbeyond's stock on April 17, 2014. The deal also indicates Birch has the ability to work out a financing deal with Wall Street to get the cash.

Cbeyond is the 21st acquisition privately-held Birch has made in recent years.  Birch says the acquisition creates a nationwide communications, cloud, and managed services provider with around $700 million in annual revenues and a whopping 200,000 business customers located in all 50 states, the District of Columba, Canada and Puerto Rico.  It also creates a nationwide IP-based network with approximately 10,000 fiber route miles, over 500 fiber-lit buildings, 570 collocations and 5 data centers.

To put Birch's business in perspective, Cox Business generated about $1.6 billion in 2013 and is on a run rate to reach $2 billion by 2016. Internationally expanding and acquisition-minded 8x8 had revenues around $108 million in its FY2013 year.  

I think it's fair to call Atlanta-based Birch a mid-sized player in the business VoIP space, but will it grow larger through further acquisitions? Or will a larger player such as a CenturyLink, Frontier, or Windstream make a play?

Cbeyond had effectively put itself on the market last November by saying it was reviewing its "strategic alternatives."  I predicted Cbeyond would be purchased earlier this month, but I admit I thought that a Tier 1 phone company or a cable company would snap them up.   Upon further review, I realize the cable companies are dedicated to organic growth within their own geographic service areas while a Tier 1 phone company such as AT&T or Verizon seems to be incapable of buying anything under a billion dollars.

The irony of AT&T/Verizon M&A strategy is that those companies end up having to "buy large" because they don't have the corporate culture to understand or integrate smaller companies.   Compare them to Facebook or Google, who both have the "buy small and grow bigger" formula down pat.   Internet service companies are not afraid to make smaller purchases and understand such transactions can provide strategic benefits, such as Google's support and ultimate purchase of Android Inc.

Maybe AT&T and Verizon need to start "thinking small" if they hope to recapture market share in the SMB space. 




Edited by Alisen Downey

Contributing Editor

SHARE THIS ARTICLE
Related Articles

Cyberattacks on OPM, Anthem and United Airlines are Linked

By: Peter Bernstein    7/30/2015

The bad news on the cyberattack front got a whole lot worse with a story from Bloomberg by reporters Michael Riley and Jordan Robertson that revealed …

Read More

Comings & Goings: Citrix CEO Steps Down as Company Gears for an Overhaul

By: Tara Seals    7/29/2015

There appears to be a bit of shakeup going on over at Citrix, the venerable distributed computing company. Long-time Citrix CEO Mark Templeton has ann…

Read More

Three Reasons Passwords Are Here to Stay

By: TMCnet Special Guest    7/28/2015

Siber Systems explains why someday passwords will be a thing of the past, but not any time soon.

Read More

Wheelings & Dealings: Visa Joins Amex with Giant Investment in Payment Startup Stripe

By: Laura Stotler    7/28/2015

Payment startup company Stripe has scored a whopping round of funding, with Visa taking a major interest in the company's technology. The funding amou…

Read More

Google Removing Google Plus Requirements

By: Andrew Bindelglass    7/28/2015

When Google first revealed its answer to social media giants Facebook and Twitter in 2011, it was met largely with a fizzle. With membership in Google…

Read More