Most of the heavyweights in tech pulled back from mergers and acquisitions in 2015, with one striking exception: Microsoft.
Five of 8 tech giants decreased their M&A activity from 2014 to 2015 — measured by number of deals, not by deal value — according to data from CB Insights. Two moderately increased their acquisitions, still staying in the single digits for deals. But Microsoft stood apart, ramping up its acquisitions by purchasing 18 companies in 2015, an increase of 180 percent from the year prior. This continued Microsoft’s trend of steadily increasing acquisitions year-over-year.
In 2015, Microsoft had the most acquisitions of any big tech company.
All together, tech giants cut back on deals, making a collective 71 acquisitions in 2015, down from a total of 101 the year before. Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Yahoo all showed decreases in M&A activity from the year prior.
The most dramatic decreases in acquisitions were from Yahoo and Google, which had been on a major acquisition sprees the previous two years. Google made fewer than half the acquisitions it made the year before, with 16 acquisitions in 2015, compared to 35 the year prior. That said, Google still had the second highest number of deals made in 2015 among tech biggies, despite being down internally year-over-year. And Google has made the most acquisitions of all the tech giants over the past five years. Similarly, Yahoo dramatically cut back on acquisitions, making just 1 after nearly a combined 50 in the two years prior. Yahoo’s M&A activity was down 94 percent from 19 acquisitions the prior year year.
Both Amazon and Salesforce saw small bumps in their number of acquisitions in 2015. Amazon increased its purchases from 5 to 7 and Salesforce went from 1 to 5 acquisitions.
Apple, Facebook, and Twitter all moderately scaled back their M&A activity. In the last five years, Apple has made 44 acquisitions — a small number compared to Google’s 113 over that same period. However, its acquisitions have been some of the most varied, with deals in a variety of sectors including LearnSprout (education technology), Mapsense (location services), Emotient (facial tracking), and PrimeSense (semiconductors). In 2015, Apple dropped down from 12 to 11 acquisitions, and has shown decreases in M&As in each of the past three years.
Facebook also cut back on deals over the past three years, going from 10 to 8 to 5, though it did make the largest dollar amount acquisition of the group to date, purchasing WhatsApp in 2014 for $22 billion. Similarly, Twitter was down this year, going from 11 acquisitions the in 2014 to 8 in 2015.
These 8 tech giants, collectively responsible in the past five years for more than 23 acquisitions of companies worth over $1 billion, seemed to be playing it safe with M&As last year. That said, overall tech exits were up 21 percent in 2015 — largely due to increased acquisitions by tech companies not yet competing with the biggies, CB Insights said.