The company will acquire AuthenTec and its fingerprint sensor technology.
Apple Inc. has just struck a $356 million deal to purchase AuthenTec Inc., the fingerprint sensor technology developer, which could send its iPhone smartphones directly into the middle of the mobile payments market.
This marketplace is already experiencing rapid growth and should explode before the end of the year.
Some investors are expecting a rival bid to occur as the shares of AuthenTec closed at higher than the $8 which would be paid by Apple in the deal. The agreement has Apple paying a premium of 58 percent for the company, which is based in Melbourne, Florida.
This is also a notable transaction as Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., the Korean mobile device maker, is among the largest AuthenTec customers. Apple rarely buys public companies, as it is more likely to purchase businesses when they are still startups, as this most valuable technology company in the world is seeking cutting-edge technology.
It is suspected that this acquisition will play an important mobile payments role for Apple.
This is because it owns a number of technologies that would help bring Apple forward in mobile payments, particularly through its high security fingerprint sensors.
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Fingerprint technology is already being used for mobile payments in Japan, for authentication of the transactions. This acquisition could help Apple to bring this type of service and security to other markets, such as the United States, where there has been a slow start to mobile wallets and the right catalyst is still needed to get things going.
Because of the potential of mobile payments and the nature of the Apple deal, it is likely that Samsung and Google Inc. will step forward as rival bidders. Though AuthenTec is not allowed to seek out other offers under the terms of the Apple agreement, it is permitted to give unsolicited bids their due consideration.
This agreement would also bring a number of important patents to Apple. Those owned by AuthenTec would be able to provide a range of mobile payments security features that would help to make an iPhone wallet service more appealing to consumers, who are still leery of trusting their financial information to their cell phones.