Adobe back in the market for marketing, drops $600m on Neolane

Contact: Brenon Daly

In its second-largest acquisition for its Marketing Cloud, Adobe Systems says it will hand over $600m in cash for marketing automation (MA) vendor Neolane. The purchase of Neolane, which is expected to close in Q3, trails only Adobe’s pickup of Omniture for $1.8bn in 2009 in terms of spending on deals to build out its Marketing Cloud. Collectively, these transactions have cost Adobe more than $3bn.

Although Adobe declined to discuss Neolane’s financials, the Paris-based startup has said it generated 2012 revenue of $58m, which would put it at roughly the same size as rivals Marketo and HubSpot. In terms of valuation, however, Neolane is a good bit off of Marketo’s market cap of some $870m.

We would chalk up the disparity in valuation to two main reasons. First, Neolane’s on-premises business is about as large as its subscription business, while Marketo is a pure SaaS company. Further, we understand that Neolane grew about 40% last year, which is a solid rate but just half the pace of the free-spending – and deeply unprofitable – Marketo. Through midyear, we would pencil out that Neolane generated roughly $70m in trailing 12-month revenue.

Adobe’s MA move comes after many other tech giants have already snapped up MA vendors, including paying a record $2.5bn for ExactTarget earlier this month. Other tech giants that have made significant MA acquisitions include IBM (Unica), Teradata (Aprimo), Oracle (Eloqua) and Intuit (Demandforce). Valuations for those transactions have ranged from 4.4x trailing sales to 11x trailing sales.

Select marketing automation transactions

Date announced Acquirer Target Deal value Price-to-sales valuation
June 27, 2013 Adobe Neolane $600m 8.6x*
June 4, 2013 ExactTarget $2.5bn 7.6x
December 20, 2012 Oracle Eloqua $956m 9.7x
April 27, 2012 Intuit Demandforce $424m 11.4x*
December 22, 2010 Teradata Aprimo $525m 6.3x
August 13, 2010 IBM Unica $523m 4.4x

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase *451 Research estimate

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