Xilinx has hired Barclays to advise on a bid to acquire Mellanox after approaching the chipmaker with an offer, according to people familiar with the matter, continuing a trend of consolidation in the semiconductor industry.
A deal isn't imminent and may not come together, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. If a transaction does happen, it's expected to be announced in December, two of the people said.
Xilinx, which has a market valuation of more than $22 billion, has largely watched from the sidelines as its rivals and peers in the semiconductor industry have consolidated. Xilinx has been frequently speculated as a target for a larger chipmaker, especially after Intel acquired Altera in 2015.
Xilinx, like Altera (now named Intel PSG), makes field-programmable gate array (FPGA) chips that are in used in circuit boards in data centers that run search algorithms and power artificial intelligence. Ross Freeman, the co-founder of Xilinx, invented the FPGA in 1984.
Mellanox, which has a market cap around $5 billion, sells networking hardware used in data centers, including Ethernet switches, where Cisco rules the market, and cables for connecting switches to other hardware. Buying the company would give Xilinx a broader array of products to sell into the data center market.
Mellanox reached a settlement with activist investor Starboard Value earlier this year that placed three new directors on its board.
CNBC first reported on Oct. 25 that Mellanox had hired a financial adviser to seek a sale after receiving takeover interest. Analysts at Piper Jaffray named Xilinx, Intel and Broadcom as three potential buyers in an Oct. 26 note.
Sources told CNBC that parties other than Xilinx may be interested in Mellanox. But as Piper Jaffray notes, Intel is still searching for a permanent CEO and Broadcom just closed its $19 billion acquisition of CA Technologies this week.
Mellanox had soared more than 22 percent since Oct. 25 to about $88 per share, and rose nearly 6 percent to $94 after this report published on Wednesday. If a deal takes place, a takeover price could top $100, valuing Mellanox at about $5.5 billion, two of the people said.
Xilinx and Barclays declined comment.
--CNBC's Jordan Novet contributed to this report.