If Google was willing to pay $12.5 billion for part of the old Motorola, how about a look at the old company's former chip business, now called Freescale Semiconductor?
Motorola Mobility, the mobile phone and consumer electronics business of the old company, was spun off from its successor, Motorola Solutions, only at the end of 2010, as part of a "demerger" that had long been in the works. It took the wireless patents, now won by Google.
But in 2003, under then-CEO Chris Galvin, grandson of Motorola's founder, the old company spun off what was called Motorola Semiconductor Sector into the renamed Freescale Semiconductor, based in Austin.
Freescale and Motorola cross-licensed each other, but the spinoff enabled the old company to lower its capital costs. Freescale, in turn, was no longer a "captive" chip maker. One of its most important customers was Apple, which used the PowerPC chips in its Mac products, which had also been co-designed with IBM as an alternative to Intel processors.
In 2006, though, Freescale went private. A syndicate including Blackstone Group, Carlyle Group, Permira Funds and what was then called Texas Pacific Group laid out $17.6 billion for the business. At the time, it was the largest-ever technology leveraged buyout.
This year, the private equity group sold out, putting Freescale back into the market. Its May IPO was a disappointment: the chipmaker sold 43.5 million shares at $18, rather than the $22 to $24 anticipated by the underwriters. That implied a total valuation of Freescale at $4.3 billion, based on the price and expectation of 240 million shares outstanding.
On an enterprise basis which includes debt, the implied valuation was about $12 billion.
Freescale shares Wednesday closed at $12.72, giving it a market capitalization of only $3.1 billion and enterprise value of $9.9 billion
Five years ago, Freescale's sales to "old" Motorola were around 30 percent of total sales. In the second quarter of 2011, chip sales to mobile phone makers were $122 million out of a total of $1.22 billion. Radio-frequency, analog and sensor chip sales were $315 million.
The company's other chips end up in many other products, including automobiles, computers and industrial controls.
But its patent portfolio, given its long history in the business, must be a treasure. Most likely, it was scrubbed during the years of private ownership, but it surely could be a target for Apple or any of its rivals in today's quest for intellectual property.