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Tandberg receives takeover bid, but is another major prospect lurking?

Last week videoconferencing company Tandberg confirmed that it had received a takeover bid by an unnamed private equity firm. Since then rumors have been flying that major networking equipment manufacturers — Cisco, Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Ericsson — could step up with competitive bids.

Only one of those companies seems an obvious bidder.

It’s not Ericsson. That rumor may have been born simply because the Swedish telecommunications firm bought Tandberg’s cable television business last year for $1.4 billion.

As for Cisco, it’s already done a good job of building telepresence and other videoconferencing technology in-house, and according to recent earnings reports, telepresence sales are solidly growing. Plus, Cisco is about the proprietary telepresence approach, not creating technology based upon interoperable standards like Tandberg, Polycom and others. For Cisco, Tandberg is sort of a why-bother?

But HP? That’s another story. HP and Tandberg are already technology partners in videoconferencing and telepresence. Last year, they announced that their video portfolios would be interoperable. Now enterprise users can connect their HP Halo telepresence systems to Tandberg’s conference-room and desktop-based systems. That agreement also enables Tandberg’s systems to function on HP’s Halo Video Exchange Network. It would seem logical for HP to bring Tandberg’s whole operation into the fold.

Tandberg would only be the latest in a series of acquisitions by HP this year. Last week, HP announced its intention to acquire wireless LAN company Colubris. That purchase positioned HP more strongly in the wireless arena, but also face to face against Cisco in yet another market segment. A strong video acquisition for HP could heat up the battle between the companies even more.

Video also plays into HP’s most notable acquisition this year: Electronic Data Systems (EDS). That acquisition will greatly expand HP’s business services arm and channel. Many say telepresence works best when offered by a large business services consulting firm or systems integrator.

Tandberg Chief Executive Fredrik Halvorsen didn’t directly address rumors and definitely didn’t reveal the private firm that made the bid, saying only, “We want to maximize shareholder value.”

Tandberg and Polycom are two of the best known independent video technology firms left standing. Both are considered pioneers in the field.

Tandberg’s market capitalization is around $2.4 billion.

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