Taking it easy

Contact: Ben Kolada

J2 Global has announced the acquisition of Backup-Connect International, another characteristic play of its usual M&A strategy. Although its recent purchases of Ziff Davis and IGN Entertainment seemed to signal that j2 would focus on larger and inherently more difficult acquisitions, we read the company as still being more of an opportunistic acquirer – taking what it can if the taking is easy.

At a high level, the acquisition of Netherlands-based Backup-Connect is yet another geographic play meant to add global depth to j2’s business continuity services. With Backup-Connect, the company has now announced four acquisitions in this sector: two in Ireland, one in the US and now one in the Netherlands.

The fact that this is j2’s first foray into the Netherlands suggests that the country hasn’t historically been a strategic focus, although it does provide a handy base for continental European operations. Also, the company’s main dealmaker didn’t have to travel far to do the deal: j2’s global head of M&A, Jeroen van der Weijden, operates out of Amsterdam.

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @451TechMnA.

DataBank expands to the Twin Cities

Contact: Ben Kolada

Dallas-based DataBank has expanded beyond its Texan roots, acquiring Minneapolis-based VeriSpace. The deal is part of a growth strategy aimed at entering new markets in part through M&A. With VeriSpace, DataBank now operates eight datacenters with more than 180,000 square feet of datacenter space. DataBank was acquired by Avista Capital Partners in June 2011.

VeriSpace provides server colocation, managed hosting and disaster recovery services to enterprises. The company operates a 10,000-square-foot facility in Minneapolis suburb Eden Prairie. VeriSpace was founded in 2002 by Minnesota commercial real estate developer Dave Frauenshuh, and sits in a commercial office complex located about 12 miles south of downtown Minneapolis.

The greater Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area has seen a little bit of moving and shaking in the past few years. In May last year, Cologix picked up Minnesota Gateway and in March 2010, TDS bought VISI for $18m. In Minneapolis, competitors in the colocation market include XO Communications, VISI, Atomic Data, Cologix and Implex. Competition in the interconnection services area will most likely come from SunGard, Velocity Telephone and zColo.

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @MAKnowledgebase.

Consolidating the Google Apps ecosystem

Contact: Ben Kolada

The Google Apps ecosystem saw continued consolidation on Wednesday as UK Google Apps developer and reseller Ancoris announced that it was acquiring Appogee for an undisclosed sum. Google and other enterprise apps providers are using resellers to target the SMB market, a strategy that has spawned a plethora of application systems integrators. Consolidation in this sector has taken off in the past few years and is providing extremely fast growth for some companies.

Application software OEMs, such as Google but also including salesforce.com, have focused their efforts on targeting the enterprise segment, and instead have used resellers to penetrate the SMB market. Meanwhile, cloud services are now affordable for SMBs, and millions have migrated away from their old premises-based systems to modern cloud services.

VARs like Ancoris and Cloud Sherpas add functionality to the apps they resell, such as multiple domain setup, administrative capabilities and more fleshed-out instant messaging capabilities. Essentially, they’re making paid Google Apps more suitable for SMBs by answering shortcomings not addressed by default by Google.

Increasing adoption of cloud services combined with consolidation has played out particularly well for Cloud Sherpas, which has acquired eight companies in the past two years, including two so far this year. The company’s CEO has publicly said he expects revenue to break $100m this year, up from about $75m last year and less than $1m in 2009.

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @MAKnowledgebase.

CyrusOne’s steady rise

Contact: Tejas Venkatesh, Ben Kolada

CyrusOne, the colocation bull that has now changed hands three times since 2007, debuted on the Nasdaq today with a valuation topping $1bn. The fast-growing company was spun off of Cincinnati Bell but is still majority owned (72%) by the regional telco. Shares popped during early trading, continuing the company’s history of creating considerable wealth for each of its owners.

The datacenter company, which is structured as a real estate investment trust, sold 16.5 million shares at $19 per share, higher than its previously guided $16-18 range. The IPO raised a total of $313.5m, though underwriters have an option to sell an additional 2.5 million shares. Shares jumped approximately 10% when they hit the Nasdaq and held the gains through midday trading. CyrusOne currently sports a market cap of about $1.3bn.

CyrusOne operates 24 facilities, primarily in the Ohio and Texas markets. The company offers colocation services aimed at enterprise-class customers requiring highly available facilities, engineered for dense power and reliability. Morgan Stanley and Bank of America Merrill Lynch were joint bookrunners for its IPO.

This is the third time shares of CyrusOne have traded hands since 2007. And in each transaction, its value has steadily climbed, creating considerable wealth for each of its owners.

CyrusOne’s rising valuation

Date Liquidity event Valuation
January 18, 2013 IPO $1.3bn
May 12, 2010 Sale to Cincinnati Bell $525m
July 11, 2007 Sale to ABRY Partners $130m

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @MAKnowledgebase.

Telcos playing a new hosting game

Contact: Ben Kolada

Datacenter operator Digital Realty Trust on Wednesday announced that it paid $80m for a three-property portfolio of datacenters from French telco Bouygues Telecom. The deal could signal yet another robust year in Internet infrastructure M&A, but also shows that telcos are playing different strategic cards in the ongoing hosting game.

Last year set a record in Internet infrastructure M&A deal volume with 110 acquisitions announced, according to The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase. The record is particularly notable as it comes at a time when telcos are weighing alternative options to acquiring hosting properties. With the exception of NTT Communications, which announced three hosting acquisitions last year, telcos have largely been out of the M&A arena.

In fact, as evidenced by Bouygues’ divestiture, telcos are now considering strategies other than buying or owning high-growth hosting businesses. For example, the Digital Realty-Bouygues deal is structured as a sale-leaseback transaction, in which datacenter specialist Digital Realty will own the facilities but Bouygues will lease and operate them. Other telcos, such as Cincinnati Bell, have also decided to pass their hosting facilities on to vendors more versed in the business. Cincinnati Bell is spinning off its CyrusOne hosting unit into a publicly traded entity. CyrusOne will debut on the Nasdaq tomorrow, planning to sell 16.5 million shares $16-18 each.

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @MAKnowledgebase.

KEYW picks up Sensage to build out Project G

Contact: Ben Kolada

Just three days after announcing its largest acquisition – the $126m pickup of cybersecurity software development firm Poole & Associates – KEYW has snagged small security information and event management (SIEM) vendor Sensage for $24m, with an earnout potentially raising that price by $10.5m. The two companies had previously been partners, working together on KEYW’s networking cybersecurity platform, dubbed Project G.

KEYW is handing over $15m in cash and $9m in stock. The deal also includes an earnout of up to $3m in cash and $7.5m in stock, achievable based on unspecified revenue targets for the second half of the year. The transaction is expected to close in October.

The Redwood City, California-based target, which has 35 employees, generated about $12m in revenue last year and recorded a small operating loss for the first half of this year. However, although the legacy Sensage business will be retained, the company isn’t being valued on its sales, but rather its potential contribution to KEYW’s nascent Project G platform. Sensage CEO Joe Gottlieb will head the combined company’s Project G network security initiative. KEYW began commercially testing Project G in June.

Select precedent ESIM acquisitions

Date announced Acquirer Target Price/sales valuation
April 3, 2012 TIBCO Software LogLogic 3.5*
October 4, 2011 IBM Q1 Labs 8.8*
October 4, 2011 McAfee NitroSecurity 5.3*
June 23, 2011 SolarWinds TriGeo Network Security 3.9
September 13, 2010 Hewlett-Packard ArcSight 7.7

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase *451 Research estimate. Click links for full deal details.

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @MAKnowledgebase.

Infosys’ largest deal is still small

Contact: Thejeswi Venkatesh

Last October, Infosys Technologies CEO Kris Gopalakrishnan indicated that the firm was ready to make big acquisitions, contrasting the conservative company’s historical growth strategy. The Indian IT outsourcing giant walked that talk today with the announcement of its largest-ever acquisition – the $350m pickup of Swiss SAP systems integrator Lodestone Holding.

The purchase comes four years after Infosys was outbid by HCL Technologies in its attempt to acquire Lodestone rival Axon Group and helps the company shore up its higher-margin consulting business while also increasing its presence in Europe. Infosys’ consulting and systems integration segment already accounts for about 30% of its revenue.

The deal values Lodestone at 1.6 times last year’s sales, identical to the valuation Axon took in its roughly $800m sale to HCL in 2008. On its website, Lodestone reported revenue of $220m for 2011, up from $192m in 2010. UBS advised Lodestone.

We’d note, however, that although this is Infosys’ largest acquisition, it’s still a fairly conservative play. The Lodestone deal was done for nearly half of what Infosys was willing to shell out for Axon in 2008, and its revenue is only 3% of Infosys’ total.

General Dynamics nabs networking cybersecurity vendor Fidelis

Contact: Ben Kolada

General Dynamics on Monday announced the acquisition of network security vendor Fidelis Security Systems. Fidelis’ customer profile and proximity to security operations at federal agencies appealed to General Dynamics as the defense giant looks to expand its cybersecurity capabilities against several competitors that have already announced inorganic moves in this market.

General Dynamics isn’t disclosing terms of the all-cash deal, but did say that Fidelis has approximately 70 employees. When we last wrote about Fidelis in February 2011, we noted that it had 52 employees and that its average deal size had steadily grown from $200,000 in 2008 to $350,000. At the time, the company had 62 customers (up from 21 in 2008).

We’ve written before about traditional military contractors moving toward cybersecurity as the government cuts back on traditional military spending. In June, Northrop Grumman printed a similar transaction, reaching for Australian network security systems integrator M5 Network Security. And in October 2011, ManTech International announced that it was acquiring network, security and systems integration and software development vendor Worldwide Information Network Systems for $90m. General Dynamics also bought Fortress Technologies, which provides wireless mesh network access points and software that enable US defense agencies to establish secure wireless LAN connections, in July 2011. We’ll have a full report on this deal in an upcoming Daily 451.

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @MAKnowledgebase.

Healthy M&A activity in medical speech recognition and transcription

Contact: Ben Kolada

There’s seemingly been a burst in deal volume in the niche medical-focused speech recognition and transcription market lately. On Thursday, iMedX announced the acquisition of Electronic Medical Transcription Services (eMTS), capping off a growing line of acquisitions in this sector. Driving deal flow, among other things, is healthcare professionals’ increasing use of transcription and voice recognition systems and various legislation being passed that provides incentives for digital clinical documentation.

One such bill is the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, also known as the HITECH Act, which became law in 2009. HITECH provides incentives for healthcare providers to use electronic health records, which store clinical data in a digital format.

Although the eMTS buy is likely quite small in the grand scheme of things, there is big M&A money being poured into medical speech recognition and transcription deals.

Earlier this month, One Equity Partners bet its money on this market when it announced that it was taking M*Modal private for $840m, or $1.1bn when including $260m of net debt. That transaction was announced almost exactly a year after M*Modal was acquired by rival MedQuist, which assumed the target’s name.

We’ve previously written that Nuance Communications, with its Nuance Healthcare unit, has been a major consolidator in this sector. In March, Nuance announced that it was paying $313m for medical-focused rival Transcend Services – its largest purchase since its last significant medical acquisition in April 2008, when it paid $363m for eScription. Nuance’s Healthcare division generated $583m in trailing sales as of March 31.

Recent select M&A in medical transcription and speech recognition

Date announced Acquirer Target Deal value
July 2, 2012 One Equity Partners M*Modal $840m
March 7, 2012 Nuance Communications Transcend Services $313.5m
August 15, 2011 Nuance Communications Loquendo $75m
July 14, 2011 Nuance Communications Webmedx Not disclosed
July 11, 2011 MedQuist M*Modal $130m

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @MAKnowledgebase.

Will hosting bankers follow the deal flow?

Contact: Ben Kolada

Acquisitions in the hosting and colocation sector, which dominated headlines in the first half of last year, have flatlined. Gone are the days of multiple nine- and 10-figure deals being done by telcos and buyout shops. PEER 1 Hosting’s NetBenefit acquisition, announced Wednesday, was welcome news for M&A advisers serving the hosting industry (particularly for Oakley Capital Corporate Finance, which banked NetBenefit), but as deal volume in the industry slows, some bankers are making the move to the SaaS sector.

Although valuations remain strong (PEER 1’s NetBenefit buy was done for 10 times EBITDA), deal sizes have shrunk. The median deal size so far this year is $34m, compared with about $50m in the year-ago period. Further, deal volume has flatlined. Annualizing year-to-date deal flow would mean that annual volume has plateaued from its peak in 2010. Volume may ultimately rise as private equity firms that announced hosting plays in the past few years look to exit those investments, and as US firms look overseas for deals. But investment bankers serving this industry aren’t content to wait.

While hosting bankers aren’t yet giving up on their core industry, some are already transitioning to targeting the SaaS sector. For example, one of the hosting industry’s front-running investment banks, DH Capital, recently partnered with SaaS Capital, a specialized commercial lender serving the SaaS sector. They recently worked together with existing investors to secure $12m in subordinated debt financing for SaaS security firm Alert Logic.

More hosting-focused investment banks may look to make this move as well, since the leap from hosting to SaaS banking is shorter than many would think. Hosting and SaaS businesses have similar operating models, such as recurring revenue and server-centric, hosted products. One more reason for the transition: the number of SaaS transactions is twice that of hosting acquisitions.

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @MAKnowledgebase.