That valuation question

You may have heard that HP and Dell are in a bidding war for a company called 3PAR. Here is the latest update from the Wall Street Journal:

H-P’s $24-a-share bid is one-third higher than the $18-a-share that Dell agreed to pay for 3PAR last week. Both companies are offering a big premium for the maker of data-storage equipment. Before the Dell agreement was made public Aug. 16, 3PAR last traded at $9.65.

For those of us interested in the valuation of intangible assets, this begs the question: why the high premium?
Did Dell see almost twice as much value in 3PAR (presumably in the form of intangible assets) that the financial markets did a week ago?
And is the market really that blind to the value intangible assets?
Does HP see even more intangible value — that Dell overlooked?
Or is it that the intangibles are more valuable to HP (for strategic or operational reasons) than to Dell?
Or is it all just froth and ego bidding up the price?
All possible answers — none of which will be easy to sort out. But, sorted out they will be if either HP or Dell wins — since the GAAP rules require the accounting of intangibles acquired from outside. The theory on the rule (and not counting internally generate assets) is that such assets having been purchased through an “arms-length” transaction reflect true market prices. In other words, the intangibles are worth whatever someone on the open market is willing to pay for them.
We will see once the accountants get a hold of the deal, however, how much they are willing to value the intangible at — and how much goes into that amorphous category of “goodwill” (often simply a catch all for froth).

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