If you've got stock in the security company McAfee, and you've been fretting about the recession that never leaves the party, you've got cause to rejoice. Because yesterday, the chip designing megalith Intel announced it was buying McAfee at a premium, paying 48 bucks a share, well over the present stock value of just under $30. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Intel has decided it needs an expert in-house security unit to help in its expansion into the burgeoning market in smartphones and other wireless devices. In fact, it needs security so much that its directors are willing to drop $7.68 billion on the acquisition.
This marks an interesting departure from recent trends in mergers and acquisitions. For at least three years now, tech ventures have been burning through startup cash, hoping for one of three outcomes: they actually find a way to make a profit on their own; they take the company public and buy themselves time and more investment capital; or some big boy with deep pockets comes along and makes their dreams come true. And for at least three years, the investing public and the big tech firms have been too spooked by the contracting economy to make a serious investment in emerging small tech businesses. (Google, it should be noted, is the major exception to this rule.) Of course, McAfee ain't just some startup with a little mad money; it's one of the world's most important Internet security firms, and it could do just fine on its own. But this move signals the Silicon Valley giants that aren't Google just might feel comfortable enough to start buying up the minnows again.