Update: moments after the initial report, Intel confirmed it would buy Mobileye for $63.54/share representing an equity valuation of $15.3 billion. Intel would use existing cash on hand to fund the acqusition.
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Intel has agreed to buy Israeli technology firm Mobileye for $14-$15 billion according to a report in Israeli financial newspaper TheMarker, sending MBLY shares soaring over 30% higher premarket. An official announcement of the acquisition, the largest ever for an Israeli high-tech company, is expected later on Monday, TheMarker reported on its website. Mobileye, which has been a rumored acquisition target in the past, is a leading supplier of collision-avoidance car sensor systems.
Founded in 1999 with a mission to reduce vehicle injuries and fatalities, Mobileye listed in 2014 on the New York Stock Exchange, where its market cap is $10.6 billion. In 2007, Goldman Sachs invested $130 million in the company.
Intel and Mobileye already collaborate with BMW on a project to put a fleet of around 40 self-driving test vehicles on the road in the second half of this year. BMW announced its partnership with the two firms in July, with the goal of developing the capability of introducing fully autonomous vehicles to the market by 2021.
Intel is betting on Mobileye due to its strategic vision that automotive is a big part of its future, and bring the Israeli car company in-house to help it catch up to rival chipmakers like Qualcomm and Nvidia. It also could aid Intel in the drone space, given Mobileye's focus on collision avoidance. For Mobileye, the acquisition price represents a huge premium to its $10.6 billion market close.
Of note: Intel is expected to use much of its billions in "stuck" offshore cash to finance the acquisition.
The surge in MBLY stock may prove catastrophic for noted short seller Citron Research which on February 24 started shorting the company, saying that it was "a one-trick pony" that was overvalued.
"They're really a one-trick pony," Left told CNBC's "Fast Money: Halftime Report" in February. "With autonomous driving, you could even buy Google and get this whole area for free… right now Mobileye is bringing a knife to a gunfight." That's after betting against rival chipmaker Nvidia a few months ago. Citron, which was already short on Mobileye, the profits from Nvidia and rolled them into a short of Mobileye. "If you want exposure in the area as a short, it's not Nvidia anymore, but rather more of a focus on Mobileye," Left said. "When I initially discussed the Mobileye short, I've always compared it against Nvidia." Needless to say, anyone who followed Citron's advice on this one has had a miserable start to the week.