Apple Inc. will buy fingerprint sensor technology developer AuthenTec Inc for about $356 million, striking a deal that could put its iPhone at the center of the emerging mobile payments market.
Shares of AuthenTec, whose sensor chips can be used in personal computers and mobile devices, closed above the $8 per share that Apple agreed to pay for the company, suggesting some investors expect a rival bid.
Apple is paying a 58 percent premium for the Melbourne, Florida-based AuthenTec, which counts Korean mobile device maker — and fierce Apple rival — Samsung Electronics Co Ltd among its biggest customers.
AuthenTec is one of the very few public companies that Apple has acquired. The world’s most valuable technology company rarely does acquisitions and tends to buy mostly startups when looking for cutting-edge technology.
AuthenTec, spun off from Harris Semiconductor in 1998 and which went public in 2007, provides mobile security software licenses to companies like Samsung, and fingerprint sensor technology to computer makers such as Hewlett-Packard Co and Dell Inc
Its fingerprint technology, used in mobile phones in Japan for authentication of mobile payments, could help Apple bring those services to markets such as the United States, where mobile-wallet services have been slow to catch on.
Shares of AuthenTec surged $3.35, or 66 percent, to $8.42 on Nasdaq. Apple stock closed up $10.28 to $585.16.
BSW Financial analyst Hameed Khorsand said the offer price was not high enough to keep competing bids at bay, and the California mobile giant is validating AuthenTec’s technology with its interest.
“There could be other parties interested in taking a serious look at purchasing AuthenTec,” he said. “If not for the technology AuthenTec owns, then for forcing Apple to pay up.”
Analysts see Google Inc. and Samsung as potential rival bidders. The terms of the deal do not permit AuthenTec to shop for offers, but does allow it to consider unsolicited bids.
Piper Jaffray advised in the deal. The company has agreed to inform Apple if it receives any inquiries or offers. Apple has to pay a termination fee of $20 million in case the deal does not close because of antitrust issues. If AuthenTec goes for a higher, rival bid, it will have to pay Apple $10.95 million.