RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – For the second time in a month, the Federal Trade Commission is getting involved in a merger battle that directly affects companies with big operations in the Triangle. This time, however, there will be a winner, no matter which firm prevails in an anti-trust review.

Late Monday, the FTC said it would probe the takeover battle for Data Domain that has ignited a bidding war between NetApp and EMC. Last month, Data Domain and NetApp entered into a merger deal at $20 a share for Data Domain. EMC countered with a $30 per share offer totaling $1.8 billion, and NetApp responded with a slightly better offer at $1.9 billion. All three companies have major operations in the Triangle.

The FTC moved to block a $3.1 billion merger between RTP-based Talecris and Australia-based CSL, saying the move would hurt competition in the therapeutics business. CSL and Talecris said at first they would fight. They surrendered June 8, and as a result Talecris will reap a $75 million breakup fee.

On Monday, Data Domain’s board endorsed the NetApp offer. But shortly thereafter, the FTC said it would look into the wheeling and dealing to see if anti-trust matters would be involved since all three firms are major players in the data storage space.

Regardless of how the bidding turns out, Data Domain shareholders already have made a windfall. The firm’s shares were selling under $20 when the NetApp deal was disclosed. After EMC entered the battle, shares shot as high as $34.35.

At first glance, NetApp appears to have an advantage on the FTC front since both EMC and Data Domain are leaders in “deduplication” software. Deduplication technology cuts down on copying of data, thus saving storage. Gartner analyst Dave Russell stressed the deduplcation point to Reuters.

NetApp wants data Domain’s deduplication technology.

Before the FTC made its announcement, NetApp Dan Warmenhoven, hailed the Data Domain board’s endorsement.

"This announcement reaffirms our belief that the NetApp proposal provides attractive short- and long-term value to Data Domain stockholders with no significant antitrust concerns and a clearer and more timely path to close,” he said in a statement provided to Local Tech Wire. “We look forward to proceeding with our proposal, bringing the offer to a stockholder vote, and beginning to execute on the promise of this compelling combination."

According to Warmenhoven, a NetApp-Data Domain merger would mean “a lower risk of business disruption, continued competition, an enhanced products and services offering, and the ability of the NetApp sales and marketing organization to bring Data Domain’s products to more enterprises in the United States and to more customers in Europe and Asia. Furthermore, we believe employees will benefit from cultural compatibility and the ability to accelerate productivity and innovation given the existence of complementary products and a larger base of resources."

Even if Data Domain ends up being acquired by EMC, NetApp would receive a $57 million breakup fee.

The big loser could be EMC, which obviously foresees a combination of Data Domain and NetApp as a significant threat.

As for Data Domain, its investors (especially venture capital firms NEA and Greylock) and owners will enjoy a handsome exit regardless of the bidding war winner – or possibly cash out stock at a higher value if both mergers fall through.

Not a bad position to be in, especially these days, eh?