Are Suitors Listening To Marimba's Music?

By Gene G. Marcial

Running Up The Scale
Marimba (MRBA ), a little-known outfit whose software lets companies streamline the way they manage info tech resources, is catching investors' attention. Not only is it adding customers, such as GE Capital (GE ), Verizon (VZ ), and Circuit City Stores (CC ), but some pros think it could also be a takeover target. Possible suitors: IBM (IBM ) and Unisys (UIS ). They compete with Hewlett-Packard (HPQ ) in this business. On Feb. 4, HP acquired two companies -- Novadigm (NVDM ) and Consera Software -- to boost its share in that market. Few companies are in it, "so Marimba could become the next target," says a New York hedge-fund manager who owns shares and asks not to be named. Nicholas Aberle of investment firm Caris also expects Marimba to be a buyout target because of its "best-of-breed" product in a niche market. IBM or Unisys, he says, could acquire Marimba and hugely benefit from it. He figures it will earn 21 cents a share in 2004, up from 2003's 11 cents. Marimba CFO Andy Chmyz says the Hewlett deal has focused attention on Marimba. The stock is up from 3 in July to 5.80 on Feb. 25.

Note: Unless otherwise noted, neither the sources cited in Inside Wall Street nor their firms hold positions in the stocks under discussion. Similarly, they have no investment banking or other financial relationships with them.

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