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Cisco Systems, the technology conglomerate, has held discussions with the software company Splunk about buying it, although no deal is currently on the table, two people familiar with the matter told The New York Times on Friday.

A deal may not happen at all, but if talks resume, Cisco could pay more than $20 billion for Splunk, one of the people said.

Splunk, whose stock price has fallen by 30 percent since its chief executive, Doug Merritt, unexpectedly stepped down in November, has a market capitalization of around $18 billion. Cisco’s market capitalization is $227 billion.

The people requested anonymity because the information is confidential. Cisco did not immediately respond to a request for comment, while a spokesperson for Splunk said the company did not comment on rumors or speculation. The Wall Street Journal reported the potential deal earlier on Friday.

Splunk — named after spelunking, the sport of cave exploring — mines data for insights, including security threats, a business that grew in importance as the coronavirus pandemic quickly forced many workers online. It has more recently sought to shift toward cloud computing and catch up with its competitors, like Datadog, that started their business in the cloud. In June, the private-equity firm Silver Lake invested $1 billion in Splunk to help with that transition.

Cisco is known as a serial acquirer, effectively using acquisitions as a complement to research and development. Its past deals include Acacia, a maker of optical network components; Luxtera, a semiconductor company; and ThousandEyes, a cloud intelligence company. Its chief executive, Chuck Robbins, told analysts in December that Cisco would continue to look for acquisitions in security.

Technology has been a hotbed of mergers and acquisitions activity over the past year, as soaring stock prices have left companies flush with cash. Microsoft said last month that it was planning to acquire the video game company Activision Blizzard for nearly $70 billion, and Salesforce acquired the workplace software company Slack last year for $27.7 billion.




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