Test and manufacturing synergy and the NI acquisition saga

Is test and measurement hardware and software supplier National Instruments up for sale? Its skirmish with manufacturing giant Emerson Electric shows that’s not really the case. In fact, NI placed a poison pill on January 13, 2023, which makes it impossible for anyone to acquire more than 10% of company shares.

Emerson made its first takeover bid in May 2022, offering $48 per share to acquire NI. Then, in November 2022, it upended the offer to $53 per share, agreeing to buy NI for $7.6 billion. NI responded by announcing a strategic review of the acquisition offers, which led Emerson to reveal its $7.6 billion takeover bid for NI.

National Instruments, the test and measurement company based in Austin, Texas, operates in nearly 50 countries worldwide.

So, while Emerson seems keen on snapping up this 46-year-old test and measurement outfit, the question is why Emerson wants NI in the first place. First and foremost, at a time when it’s strategically focusing on manufacturing automation markets, Emerson sees a clear synergy between its automation technology and NI’s test and measurement products and software offerings.

While NI’s hardware-plus-software credentials create a powerful synergy between the manufacturing and testing worlds, it’s worth mentioning that NI has heavily invested in boosting its software prowess over the past years. Take, for instance, the acquisition of AWR, which NI later sold to Cadence. NI serving automotive, semiconductors and aerospace/defense markets could also bring complementary adjacency to Emerson’s product portfolio.

NI has come a long way since it was founded in 1976 by three researchers at Applied Research Laboratories in the University of Texas Austin. James Truchard, Jeff Kodosky and Bill Nowlin—concerned about the inefficient data collection tools at the time—began working on creating robust data acquisition tools for engineers and scientists. Truchard led the company for nearly four decades and stepped down as CEO in 2017.

While the issue of NI’s sale is still up in the air, one thing is clear. A new synergy between the manufacturing and testing worlds is taking shape, and it can lead to several new deals aimed at a quest for end-to-end solutions. This saga has another lesson for the $53 billion test and measurement industry: the right combination of hardware and software now matters a lot more than before.

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