What’s the return on Borland’s M&A?

Contact: Brenon Daly

Looking a bit closer at Micro Focus’ $75m acquisition earlier this week of Borland Software, my colleague John Abbott noted that the British company was essentially picking up the Segue Software business that Borland itself bought three years ago. Borland paid $100m, or an enterprise value (EV) of $86m, for the testing and quality assurance tools vendor, which worked out to about 2.3x EV/trailing 12-month (TTM) sales. The purchase of Segue in February 2006 came as part of a larger overhaul of its business, which included Borland ditching its developer tools division.

Fast-forward three years, and Segue is being valued by Micro Focus at just 80% of the amount that Borland paid for it. If we look at Borland’s overall EV of just $67m, the contrast is even starker. Micro Focus is paying a mere 0.7x EV/TTM sales for Borland, which is just one-third the multiple that Borland shelled out for Segue. This isn’t to pick on Borland or knock it for agreeing to sell itself for $1 per share, which is probably as good an outcome as it could have hoped for.

However, the valuation gap does highlight a larger problem in realizing value through M&A. Consider that since 2002, Borland – under various chief executives – has spent more than $300m on nearly a dozen deals. And yet, when all of the firm’s dealmaking was priced by another market participant (in this case, Micro Focus), the aggregate value was actually two-thirds lower. Granted, Borland was shopping in a different time than our current recession, which has obviously pushed valuations down these days. (And the valuation decline is nowhere near as drastic as we’ve seen elsewhere in the market, such as the bankruptcy of Nortel Networks, a company that was once worth more than $200bn.) Still, it’s always worth noting the price a company pays when it buys and the price it gets when it ultimately sells.

Select Borland acquisitions

Date Target Equity value
February 2006 Segue Software $100m
October 2002 TogetherSoft $185m
October 2002 Starbase $24m

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase