Red Hat gave Google and other buyers a chance to bid before IBM's $34 billion offer, sources say

Key Points
  • Red Hat made it known to other suitors that it was for sale before IBM's formal offer materialized.
  • IBM's 60 percent premium bid looked more like 40 percent when the companies agreed to financial terms, sources said.
  • Google was one of several companies that had discussed a deal with Red Hat.
Red Hat president and CEO Jim Whitehurst.
Joan Cros | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Red Hat probably won't get an offer higher than the $190-per-share price from IBM, because rival suitors have already had a chance to bid, according to people familiar with the matter.

Red Hat announced Sunday it had reached an agreement to sell itself to IBM for about $34 billion. As the open-source software developer negotiated with IBM, it also spoke with "all of the logical buyers" including Google, said one of the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions were private.

Google had interest in buying GitHub earlier this year, before Microsoft bought the code-sharing company for $7.5 billion.

Google and other potential bidders had preliminary discussions with Red Hat over the course of several years, the people said. Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst told CNBC on Sunday that while Red Hat has had discussions with a number of companies, none of them progressed nearly as far as talks with IBM.

A Google spokesperson didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

While it's still possible a company could come in with a higher bid, potential suitors view IBM as a safe buyer that won't disrupt Red Hat's operations or dramatically alter the competitive landscape, two of the people said.

IBM has already said Red Hat will continue to operate independently within IBM and with minimal interference from its new parent.

Red Hat allows IBM to expand its reach across its hybrid cloud infrastructure, which combines on-site private servers with third-party cloud computing. But in terms of pure public cloud, Amazon, Microsoft and Google are still in prime position to battle for market share.

IBM paid more than a 60 percent premium over Red Hat's closing price on Friday of $116.68 a share. The premium was closer to 40 percent when the two companies actually agreed on the economic terms of the deal, one of the people said. Red Hat shares were trading at around $135 at the end of September and fell this month along with the rest of the technology sector.

Should the deal be terminated, Red Hat would be obligated to pay IBM $975 million in cash, according to an SEC filing.

Analysts at Cowen and Co. said on Monday that Cisco, Oracle and Google should take a hard look at Red Hat.

WATCH: Red Hat deal will grow cash flow, gross margins, says IBM CEO

Red Hat deal will grow cash flow, gross margins in first year: IBM CEO
Red Hat deal will grow cash flow, gross margins in first year: IBM CEO

—CNBC's Jordan Novet contributed to this report.