In a surprise announcement on April 15, enterprise asset intelligence company Zebra Technologies said it was acquiring Motorola's Enterprise business for US$3.45 billion in an all-cash transaction.
Years ago, Motorola had sold its mobility unit to Google and now it was washing its hands off of its enterprise business too. Why was Motorola set upon a path of self-annihilation? Was it looking for some kind of corporate nirvana by shedding some of its worldly possessions? Or was it the case of selling the family jewels? And who was this Zebra that was happily shopping around in Motorola's stables?
There were many questions.
When the news broke, the acquisition was seen as a major move by Lincolnshire, Illinois-headquartered Zebra Technologies which had hitherto been known for its RFID and real-time location solutions.
Zebra Technologies Corporation, listed on NASDAQ since 1991, is a global leader in manufacturing, retail and healthcare technologies and offers an extensive portfolio of visibility solutions incorporating barcode, RFID and location systems.
Though the news got leaked one-day ahead of the announcement, the company had succeeded in keeping it under wraps for months. "In terms of formally getting into negotiations, it has been going on since last October," Rod Rodericks, Vice President & GM for Zebra Technologies APAC, told CIO Asia. "I personally was made aware of it towards the end of last year."
A bold move
A company, with a market cap of US$ 3.5 billion, acquiring Motorola's enterprises business is a bold move. "This is also quite unusual," said Rodericks. "A small-sized company acquires a bigger sized company. This is quite a bold move. We are acquiring a company which in revenue terms is two and half times the size. Zebra is around US$1 billion whereas the Motorola division that we are buying is US$2.5 billion. It is a significant undertaking."
Not just in revenue. The company is way bigger in terms of employee size too. Zebra Technologies has over 2500 employees across 26 countries whereas Motorola's acquired division has around 4,000 employees.
Explaining the rationale behind the acquisition, Rodericks said, "It (the acquisition) makes a lot of sense for both companies. Historically, we had a good working relationship with Motorola Enterprise for ten years or more. We know them, they know us. It was a formal marketing alliance. At the sales level, we would do joint calls together. If you look at the extent of the solution, it was really partially Zebra and partially Motorola."
"We know each other quite well," he said. "We are not strangers. We are in the same business. Our route to market is very similar."
The benefits of the acquisition are very clear to Rodericks. "We have understood what we have let us in for and we are excited about it," he said. "It gives us really strong leadership in the industry. It gives a technology platform and an R&D capability which allows us to develop future products."
"In terms of core products, on the Motorola side, it is data capturing technologies (handheld devices and terminals) in many environments," he said. "Our piece has been about providing barcode labels to enable data capturing (like print and apply labels on boxes and packages). So, our activities are very complimentary. Now, they will come together as a seamless function. So our customers and channel partners would now be able to go to a single source for the whole suite of products. That gives us strength and presence that will enhance our capability to engage with large-scale corporates."
Rodericks understands that for any acquisition, the challenge is in the integration process. "60 percent of acquisitions fail after integration because the two companies did not understand each other," he said. "Perhaps they don't understand their culture and their route to market, which something that we will avoid."
In this case, Rodericks said that the two company's integration will happen in phases. It won't be a big bang.
"We see a huge acceleration potentially coming if we do this integration process well," he said. "I will focus more on the challenges of the enterprise business."
Opportunities in Asia
Rodericks was EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) head of Zebra Technologies and he was finding it "an interesting experience". However, 18 months ago, he was made in-charge of the APAC region. He was called over to the Asian region to put in place the infrastructure that he had placed in the EMEA region.
How has been his experience in the Asian region? "We have still been recovering from the slow down because of China and China is a very important market for our business," he said. "There was a noticeable slump in the business in China but last year was tremendous recovery including China. Business has been expanding. We have put an excellent marketing team. Earlier we were fragmented. The region had been underinvested."
The company's regional headquarters is in Singapore and it has primary sales offices throughout the region. It has a big engineering and product design centre in Guangzhou in China.
"Our key verticals are manufacturing, transport and logistics, retail, and healthcare," he said. "We feel that we can make significant impact in these verticals in the region."