New York: Apple has bought Melbourne, Florida-based fingerprint sensor technology developer AuthenTec Inc for about USD 356 million that could put its iPhone at the center of the emerging mobile payments market.
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.
It's not known what Apple's plans are. Rival devices running Google's Android system are starting to come with a wireless technology that can let phones make payments with the tap of a reader.
Apple's patent filings hint at an interest in the technology, known as near-field communications, but the notoriously secretive company has given no clue when the technology might show up in iPhones. A new model is expected this fall.
Beyond protecting payments, a fingerprint system could keep unauthorized people from accessing email, contact lists and more. Current phones offer protection through passwords, which can be guessed or forgotten.
AuthenTec said Apple Inc. is paying USD 8 for each of its common shares, a 58 percent premium to their closing price on Thursday.
AuthenTec's stock jumped USD 3.27, or 65 percent, to USD 8.34 in Friday afternoon trading, above Apple's offer. That could suggest investors think there will be a higher bid for the company.
The deal was unanimously approved by AuthenTec's board. It still requires approval from a majority of the holders of the Melbourne, Fla., company's stock. AuthenTec has about 44.5 million outstanding shares, according to FactSet.
A higher offer for AuthenTec is possible. In a regulatory filing, AuthenTec said it's not allowed to actively seek out other offers, but it could hold talks with other parties before its stockholders approve Apple's buyout terms.
If AuthenTec does wind up accepting a superior offer, it would have to pay a breakup fee of approximately USD 11 million.
While Apple said earlier this week that its growth rate slowed in its latest quarter, massive sales of its iPhones and iPads in recent years have made it the world's most valuable company. It's the third-largest maker of cellphones, according to research firm Gartner, and dominates the market for tablet computers.
With Agency Inputs
First Published: Saturday, July 28, 2012, 09:17