Looking at Lawson

Contact: Brenon Daly

What was shaping up as an explosive showdown between Carl Icahn and Genzyme has been defused ahead of today’s board meeting at the biotech company. By adding two nominees selected by Icahn to the expanded board of directors, Genzyme avoided the full-blown proxy fight that had been brewing. With that matter settled, we wonder if Icahn will turn his attention to his newest tech investment – Lawson Software.

The gadfly investor owns stock and options equaling about 15.6 million Lawson shares, or roughly 9.7% of the old-line ERP vendor. As is often the case in his investments, Icahn says he will push for moves that maximize shareholder value, which could include a sale of the company. However, we would note that in his recent role as shareholder activist, Icahn hasn’t succeeded in putting his holdings in play.

Although he helped spur the sale of BEA Systems in early 2008, his more recent agitation hasn’t necessarily resulted in M&A. Among other holdings, Icahn has owned or currently owns stakes in Yahoo, Motorola and Mentor Graphics – all of which still trade on their own. Likewise, we suspect Lawson will remain independent, even if Icahn pushes for a sale.

For starters, the company isn’t cheap. Shares have tacked on 60% over the past year – twice the return of the Nasdaq and three times the gain of Oracle over the same period. That gives Lawson a market capitalization of $1.3bn. (It holds roughly the same amount of cash and debt, so Lawson’s enterprise value is also about $1.3bn.)

If we assume the company will generate about $350m in maintenance revenue in its current fiscal year, Lawson currently trades at 3.7 times its maintenance revenue. A conservative 30% premium on top of Lawson’s current valuation would add $400m to the price, for a total cost of $1.7bn or nearly 5 times maintenance revenue. That valuation isn’t overly rich, but it is probably at the high end of the range that a financial-minded buyer could make work.

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