2016 was a year of frenzied M&A activity, driven by the need for scale, diversification and a quick route to cutting edge capabilities.
But which companies struck the best deals and had the best M&A strategies?
Four companies -- Amdocs Ltd. (NYSE: DOX), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Equinix Inc. (Nasdaq: EQIX) and GTT Communications Inc. -- made the Best Deal Maker shortlist in this year's Leading Lights awards -- find out more about them below.
The winner will be announced at the Leading Lights Awards dinner on Monday, May 15, at Brazos Hall in Austin, Texas. On the following day, the Big Communications Event opens its doors for two days of learning, networking and fun.
To find out which companies were shortlisted across all of this year's Leading Lights categories, please check out this story. (See Leading Lights 2017: The Finalists.)
So let's take a look at our finalists.
Amdocs has a long history of M&A activity but announcing the acquisition of three companies on one day is something even it hadn't done before September 2016, when it unveiled deals to buy Vindicia, Brite:Bill and Pontis for a combined $260 million.
Those deals strengthened Amdocs in some key, familiar areas -- billing, customer experience, digital transformation and analytics -- but also gave it some cutting edge capabilities, including software-as-a-service subscription management and payments (from Vindicia) and particularly the artificial intelligence developments that were underway at Pontis, which Amdocs harnessed and used to support its 2017 launch of its AI-based platform, aia.
Another company well versed in M&A, Cisco slapped down $3.7 billion for AppDynamics in January to help further its business transformation, in particular the shift towards cloud computing and driving more revenues from recurring and subscription models.
With AppDynamics, Cisco can provide its customers with visibility into the performance of their applications as they move them from private clouds to public cloud environments. When combined with its network layer analytics, Cisco believes this gives it significant differentiation: It could also help bolster the vendor's proposition in the IoT market.
With the global data center market shaking out and scale (including international reach) becoming an increasingly major factor in future success, Equinix moved in December 2016 to acquire 24 data centers in the US and Latin America from Verizon in a $3.6 billion deal. The deal, once closed, will also bring a number of significant Fortune 1000 enterprises to the Equinix customer base.
"This unique opportunity complements and extends Equinix's strategy to expand our global platform," noted the company in its Leading Lights submission, and "enables us to enhance cloud and network density to continue to attract enterprises, while expanding our presence in the Americas. The new assets will bring hundreds of new customers to Platform Equinix while establishing a presence in new markets and expanding our footprint in existing key metros."
International data network operator GTT has been busy with its check book in the past few years, but recently closed a major acquisition, that of Hibernia Networks for $590 million, as well as completing a few other smaller deals (including Yipes and RealLinx).
The Hibernia deal is key to GTT's growth plans, as it adds key network assets (including three transatlantic cables), new services (optical wavelengths and video transport), new customers in key verticals such as finance, media, webscale and communications, revenues and the chance to exploit economies of scale.
— Ray Le Maistre, , International Group Editor, Light Reading