Why Intel Wants to Acquire Mobileye

Chipmaking giant Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) announced Monday morning a definitive agreement to acquire Mobileye N.V. (NASDAQ: MBLY) for $63.54 per share in an all-cash transaction valued at $15.3 billion. Mobileye, an Israel-based maker of systems for autonomous driving vehicles, came public in August 2014 in an initial public offering (IPO) at $25 a share, and the stock reached an all-time high of more than $60 a share in July of 2015.

Intel’s offer represents a premium of 34% to Mobileye’s closing price on Friday, and the Israeli company’s shares rose about 32% in Monday’s premarket session.

Since its IPO, Mobileye’s fortunes have bounced around. Shortly before hitting its all-time high share price, the company announced that it was ending its relationship with Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) in 2018 with the release of Mobileye’s EyeQ4 sensor system.

In April of last year, short-seller Citron Research issued a report on Mobileye valuing the stock at $11 a share, based on its view that commoditization had arrived in the autonomous driving sector and that competitor NVIDIA Corp. (NASDAQ: NVDA) had arrived at a solution that did not require the complex Mobileye technology.

At the time that Mobileye announced its divorce with Tesla, it also announced the formation of a deal with Intel and BMW, creating a partnership to get self-driving cars on the road. Here’s a clip from that announcement:

BMW Group, Intel, and Mobileye are convinced that automated driving technologies will make travel safer and easier. The goal of the collaboration is to develop future-proofed solutions that enable the drivers to not only take their hands off the steering wheel, but reach the so-called “eyes off” (level 3) and ultimately the “mind off” (level 4) level transforming the driver’s in-car time into leisure or work time. This level of autonomy would enable the vehicle, on a technical level, to achieve the final stage of traveling “driver off” (level 5) without a human driver inside. This establishes the opportunity for self-driving fleets by 2021 and lays the foundation for entirely new business models in a connected, mobile world.

As carmakers and technology companies race for position in developing autonomous driving technologies, Monday’s move by Intel is an attempt to get in on a fundamental element of the technology. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said:

Intel provides critical foundational technologies for autonomous driving including plotting the car’s path and making real-time driving decisions. Mobileye brings the industry’s best automotive-grade computer vision and strong momentum with automakers and suppliers.

The acquisition is expected to close within nine months, and Intel’s autonomous driving group will continue to be based in Jerusalem under the leadership of Mobileye’s co-founder, chairman and chief technical officer, Professor Amnon Shashua. Intel expects the deal to be immediately accretive to earnings.

Mobileye’s stock traded up about 30% at $61.50 Monday morning, in a 52-week range of $33.09 to $51.15.

Intel’s shares traded down about 1.4%, at $35.42 in a 52-week range of $29.50 to $38.45.

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