Citrix is reportedly up for sale, and UK partners have pinpointed Microsoft as an obvious potential suitor.
The virtualisation vendor's shares spiked by almost 10 per cent last night after Bloomberg reported that it has hired Goldman Sachs to sound out buyers.
The NASDAQ-listed outfit, which was linked with a potential deal to Dell in 2015, has seen its market valuation more than double to over $13bn (£10.6bn) over the last 12 months following an improvement in its fortunes.
Private equity firms are reportedly among those that have been approached, but Citrix partners in the UK fingered Microsoft as the most likely potential trade buyer, particularly given the two vendors' recent product collaboration.
Hardware vendors such as Cisco and Huawei have also been mentioned in the press speculation but Mario Cirillo, CTO of Citrix partner Metaphor IT, said he believed Microsoft would represent a good option for the partner base.
"There are a lot of synergies [between Microsoft and Citrix] and sharing of portfolios," he said. "There have also been rumours of Citrix and Microsoft potentially sharing offices in certain locations that I've heard on the grapevine.
"Microsoft would be more favourable than one of the big hardware vendors. Azure is becoming more and more at the forefront of organisations and Citrix is the technology that allows you to start leveraging it - it would really complement Microsoft's portfolio."
Microsoft recently shelved its RemoteApp technology and is now pushing customers to use Citrix XenApp Express instead. Cirillo gave this as an example of the duo's heightened co-operation.
"That makes it clear they are quite serious about working together," he said.
"The hardware vendors would look to leverage Citrix's networking stack, but that wouldn't be good for Citrix or partners."
Under pressure from activist investor Elliott Management, Citrix embarked on a reorganisation at the end of 2015, chopping 1,000 staff and selling off its Go-To SaaS arm.
Andy Trevor, managing director of Citrix partner and VDI specialist Cutter Group, said he had seen signs that Citrix was stabilising and expressed surprise that it may be up for sale.
"This is not something I was expecting," he said. "We do a large amount in VDI and, until recently, the interest in Citrix was waning. Then six to eight months ago we started getting more enquiries and it looked like they were stabilising."
However, Microsoft would be a natural suitor because its Hyper-v VDI offering is not as polished as that of Citrix's, he added.
"If Microsoft wants to get into the VDI environment, they are going to have to do massive development around their own product, or buy someone in," he said.
"I don't think there are any standout, smaller companies with anything special to offer in the VDI market - Citrix and VMware have it sewn up. So if anyone is going to buy it, I would understand why it would be Microsoft."
Citrix did not immediately respond to our requests for comment.
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