FACEBOOK and Google were the most prolific buyers of private technology companies in 2012, with the two web firms splashing out on 16 companies each as tech acquisitions hit their highest level for years.
Financial data firm Privco revealed yesterday that acquisitions of private US technology firms reached 2,357, up from 22 per cent in the year before, and up 80 per cent on 2009.
Some of the most high-profile deals included Facebook’s $750m (£477m) purchase of photo-sharing app Instagram and Google’s $100m deal for social advertising company Wildfire Interactive.
With Facebook cashing in on its May flotation and Google a serial acquirer, the two were expected to be top of the list of buyers. However, Twitter, which remains private but has been valued at around $9bn, was a surprisingly active buyer, making 10 acquisitions – the same as network equipment giant Cisco. Groupon, the online daily deals website which went public at the end of 2011, was the third-biggest acquirer in 2012, making 13 deals as the business attempted to diversify its revenues.
Surprisingly, Barclays was the most popular adviser on private technology deals, beating Silicon Valley stalwarts Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse.
Privco said that 2012 was notable for the return of leveraged buyouts, with the junk bond market returning to life in 2012. The year also saw a large number of “acq-hires” – acquisitions made to bring in talent, rather than new business.