Another day, another acquisition by the electrical supplier to Napoleon III.
Schneider Electric announced that it will buy Lee Technologies, a Fairfax, Virginia-based company that designs, maintains and optimizes datacenters. Lee reported revenue of $140 million last year. Green IT stands as one of the largest potential markets in clean energy and efficiency. Datacenters only account for approximately 2 percent of U.S. electricity consumption. However, utilities in many parts of the country are capping the amount of power that datacenters can buy. This puts banks and web companies like Google in an uncomfortable position: either don't grow your business or find ways to squeeze out more calculations per watt.
Schneider already has a large presence in datacenters. It owns APC, which makes uninterruptable power supplies. Other acquisition targets in this market include Powerloft (data center design), Nextek Power Systems (DC power equipment), and Validus DC Systems.
Schneider has been on a shopping bender of late. Don't expect it to end. Last week it bought SmartLink Network Systems, an Indian company that specializes in cabling, for $112 million. A few days before that, Schneider bought consulting and energy management firm Summit Energy for $268 million. In December, it bought two buildling management startups in France.
Over the past year, Schneider Electric has also unfurled EV charging stations and home energy management kits it will sell through utilities. Four years ago, Schneider wasn't a name that popped up much in Silicon Valley conversations. (We recently conducted an interview with the CEO of Schneider U.S., Chris Curtis -- you can read it here.)
Competitors have been scooping up companies, too. Late last month, GE announced it would buy Converteam for $3.2 billion, which makes power conversion equipment. Earlier in January, GE bought Lineage Power Holdings, which makes efficient AC/DC equipment for datacenters, for $520 million.
Meanwhile, ABB over the past year has bought Baldor Electric (efficient motors) for $4.2 billion, virtual power plant developer Ventyx for $1 billion, and Insert Key Solutions, which specializes in asset management software. And Ventyx, as an independent ABB subsidiary, recently bought Obvient. Honeywell and Johnson Controls have also acquiring.
Acquisitions in the electrical equipment market have been predicted by many and make perfect sense. The vast majority of the equipment and service offerings -- transformers, efficiency services, building management equipment -- get sold to utilities and large multinationals, and utilities and large multinationals are conservative. They want to deal with companies with extensive track records and worldwide offices for global support. There will be no Twitter of AC-AC converters. Through acquisitions, these companies, ideally, can create all-encompassing portfolios of services and equipment for efficient energy consumption.
Age, depth and worldwide coverage is something all of these companies above understand: all of those companies listed above can trace back their roots to the 19th century and the dawn of the electric age.
One of the few major players in this acquisition race that doesn't go back centuries is EnerNoc.