Filling up on restaurant tech

by Michael Hill

Point-of-sale (POS) vendors have built up an appetite for restaurant technology as the number of tech acquisitions they’ve made in that vertical has jumped since the start of the year. The uptick in these segment-specific deals arises from the food and hospitality industry’s penchant for embracing digital commerce innovation combined with weak overall demand for POS systems and software.

According to 451 Researchs M&A KnowledgeBase, POS companies have inked seven restaurant tech purchases since the start of the year, almost as many as the eight they printed in 2018. Many of the acquisitions so far have been done to consolidate in the restaurant sector, while others were made to extend the buyers’ POS software suites into adjacent categories.

For example, restaurant POS startup Toast, which has amassed nearly $250m in funding since 2016, recently reached for StratEx, a provider of automated HR management software to restaurants that covers onboarding, payroll, benefits administration, scheduling, attendance and applicant tracking. As we noted in earlier coverage of Toast, the past few years have shown the food service segment to be among the earliest to embrace digital commerce innovations.

Restaurants have more advanced POS needs than the average retail business, demanding capabilities such as table management and online ordering, in addition to payment processing and customer management. And restaurants often spend more on POS systems than any other tech purchase, so nesting multiple applications inside these mission-critical systems offers a path to market for other restaurant-focused software products. HR management software such as StratEx’s aligns with restaurant POS, as that system doubles as a punch clock at most restaurants.

Other recent transactions appear to follow a similar recipe: start with POS and mix in other back-office applications. Take Lavu’s pickup of accounts payable specialist Sourcery Technologies earlier this month. With that move, the buyer is aiming to upsell restaurants with POS software that unifies restaurant sales with vendor management.

Part of the motivation for the string of deals in this space could be the modest growth for the overall POS market, which our surveys show is expected to be relatively flat in the coming months. According to 451 Research’s most recent Voice of the Enterprise: Customer Experience & Commerce, Organizational Dynamics & Budgets survey, only 42% of respondents said they expect their organization to maintain or increase its budget for POS software in the next quarter, the lowest reading for any of the nine software categories covered in the survey.

Annual acquisitions of restaurant technology vendors by POS providers

Harris’ acquisition of L3 puts 2018 on pace for a record

by Mark Fontecchio

Harris’ $15.6bn purchase of fellow defense contractor L3 Technologies brings the total deal value within striking distance of 2015’s record haul and above any other full-year total since the dot-com bubble. While an industry consolidation play from Harris may have gotten this year to that mark, this transaction looks more like the acquisitions that pushed 2015 to a record than those that are putting 2018 in contention for a new one.

In handing out $15.6bn of its stock for L3, Harris seeks increased scale to compete with still-larger defense players that include Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman and Raytheon. This type of large consolidation play is not without precedent for Harris – in 2015, it spent $4.8bn for Exelis, a deal that valued the target at 1.5x trailing revenue, in line with its acquisition today.

According to 451 Research’s M&A KnowledgeBase, the total value of 2018’s tech M&A market stands at $457bn, currently on pace to surpass 2015’s record haul of $577bn. Back then, consolidation among legacy telcos or aging hardware giants bolstered the annual total – that was the year Dell inked its $63bn purchase of EMC and Charter paid $57bn for Time Warner Cable.

This year’s largest deals are distinctly different. Although there’s still plenty of consolidation, including Comcast’s $39bn reach for Sky and T-Mobile’s planned tie-up with Sprint, there’s more diversity of acquirers and buying strategies beyond industry consolidation. For example, there are two venture-backed targets (GitHub and Flipkart) among the top 10, as well as two private equity purchases – not to mention Broadcom’s head-scratching $18.9bn pickup of CA, a transaction that left Wall Street puzzled.

And as more money goes into new strategies beyond consolidation, the largest deals have fetched higher multiples. According to the M&A KnowledgeBase, in the 10 largest acquisitions this year, targets fetched a median 4x trailing revenue, compared with less than 3x among 2015’s biggest.

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

Ivanti keeps rolling along, adds RES Software

Contact: John Abbott, Brenon Daly

The rollup continues at Ivanti, the PE-backed company that itself is a bit of a rollup, created from the combination of LANDESK and HEAT Software in January. In its second acquisition under its new name, the Clearlake Capital portfolio company reached for user workspace management and IT automation firm RES Software. Although terms weren’t disclosed, subscribers to 451 Research’s M&A KnowledgeBase can see our deal record and proprietary estimate of the price and valuation in this transaction.

For years, RES fought it out in the virtual desktop management space with direct rival AppSense, while LANDESK, once part of Intel, tried to hold its ground in traditional desktop management. In 2010, Thoma Bravo stepped in to buy LANDESK from its then-owner Emerson Electric for $230m, supplementing it with a handful of smaller firms and topping it off with AppSense in March 2016. (While larger than RES, AppSense garnered basically the same multiple as RES in its sale to LANDESK. 451 Research M&A KnowledgeBase also has estimates for the AppSense sale.)

In January, Clearlake stepped in to buy LANDESK, a transaction that we understand valued the company at $1.15bn. The PE firm combined it with its own portfolio company, HEAT Software — itself a combination of FrontRange and Lumension — and eventually gave the cobbled-together infrastructure software giant its new name, Ivanti.

The rechristened company offers products in four main areas: client management, endpoint security, IT service and support software, and enterprise mobility management. Overall, it employs roughly 1,300. RES, with roughly 250 employees, adds complementary software tools. The startup is strongest in user workspace management and automation tools, but also has an enterprise app store, file sharing and synchronization, IT service management desk, and (most recently) endpoint security. RES also brings more of a European focus – the company was founded in Holland in 1999 and maintains a fairly strong business in the Benelux region.

From a technical point of view, it’s likely RES Automation Manager will be the most valuable asset that can be cross-sold to the rest of the Ivanti customer base. Virtual desktop management is a maturing space that’s now mostly dominated by Citrix, VMware, Microsoft, AWS and Google, alongside a growing set of desktop-as-a-service providers using technology from one or more of those companies. This broad competitive pressure weighed heavily on RES’s valuation, as surely as it did in the sale of rival AppSense a little more than a year ago.

Dell looks to become ‘indelible’ IT vendor with EMC

Contact: Brenon Daly Simon Robinson

Announcing the largest tech deal since the Internet bubble burst, Dell plans to pay approximately $63.1bn for EMC. The debt-laden combination would create a sprawling IT giant with multibillion-dollar businesses in many of the primary enterprise technology markets, including storage, information security, IT services, servers and PCs. (For context, the combined Dell-EMC entity would be larger than Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (post-split), NetApp, Juniper Networks and Symantec combined.) Dell’s bold transformational transaction is not coming cheap, however. The company is valuing EMC significantly more richly than it valued itself when it went private two and a half years ago.

Further, Dell’s relatively pricey bulking up comes at a time when a number of rival enterprise IT vendors are slimming down. More to the point, several of these competitors are unwinding earlier blockbuster acquisitions they made in hopes of staying more relevant in a shifting IT market. The arrival of the public cloud has siphoned off billions of dollars that once flowed unimpeded to Dell, EMC and other first-generation technology firms. However, IT customers increasingly lack the appetite to buy, install and manage dozens of ‘piece parts’ and mold them into a cohesive whole. As a result, we can look at the combination of Dell and EMC as essential if the traditional IT model is to survive the onslaught from public cloud providers, most notably Amazon Web Services.

Though Dell has been on a path to build a ‘better together’ story for almost a decade, it clearly hasn’t been enough. In its effort to buy its way out of the commodity PC business, the company stitched together a patchwork of properties. However, the resulting ‘big picture’ has still not materialized. Dell has lacked a core focus point, as well as the heft and scale in any one market to dominate. Further, it has so far not sufficiently penetrated the large enterprise segment, or moved beyond its two longtime key verticals of healthcare and the public sector. Against this backdrop, it’s easy to see the attraction of EMC, which brings large enterprise credibility in storage, perhaps the industry’s most focused and effective sales operation and, in VMware, still one of the most strategic entities on the market.

EMC’s attractiveness also shows through in the valuation that Dell is paying, if not when viewed against the broader tech M&A market than certainly when put against Dell’s own worth. According to terms, Dell is paying 2.5x trailing sales and 11.5x trailing EBITDA for EMC. For comparison, in orchestrating the take-private of his namesake company, Michael Dell and his consortium paid just one-quarter the price-to-sales multiple of EMC and half the cash-flow multiple. Dell’s LBO, which stands as the third-largest private equity tech transaction in history, valued the company at just 0.5x trailing sales and 5.2x trailing EBITDA.

Look for a full report on the proposed Dell-EMC pairing later today on our website and in tomorrow’s 451 Market Insight.

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Family drama at VMworld

Contact: Brenon Daly

Even before he talked products or markets, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger kicked off his comments to Wall Streeters at his company’s annual conference with a moment of ‘family time.’ In this case, it was to defend the current corporate parentage, with EMC owning a super majority of VMware as part of a larger ‘EMC Federation.’

Gelsinger essentially said that the way things are now in the EMC family is the way they should be. He went on to knock down rumors that he was planning – or even considering – any changes in the current corporate structure, specifically singling out recent reports about a kind of fratricide by VMware in which his company would take over EMC. ‘Better together’ is the family motto.

Not everyone agrees, however. Some critics, such as the kind that buy small chunks of stock in a company and then try to tell it what to do, counter that the current structure actually inhibits growth in the family.

The activist hedge funds have a point, given that VMware stock has basically flatlined over the past five years while the S&P 500 Index has nearly doubled. (The underperformance stands out even more when we consider that a half-decade ago, VMware was running at less than $1bn in quarterly revenue. It now puts up more than $1.5bn in sales each quarter. There aren’t too many S&P 500 companies that are two-thirds bigger now than they were in 2011. Most, including EMC, have only slightly grown.)

Given that Elliott Associates, an activist hedge fund that has already successfully pushed to reshuffle EMC’s board of directors, effectively crashed the VMworld party, it’s not unreasonable to expect even more changes in the EMC Federation. (Remember, too, that the ‘standstill’ agreement between Elliott and EMC expires this month.) There may well be some family drama before the year is out.

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

For Symantec, the spinoff is just the start

Contact: Brenon Daly

After a decade of uneasy – and ultimately unfulfilling – marriage, Symantec has finally served divorce papers to its ill-matched partner, Veritas. In going solo, Big Yellow will return to its roots as a stand-alone information security company while spinning off the smaller information management (IM) business at some point before the end of next year.

The separation means that Symantec’s long-suffering shareholders will continue to own Veritas, which cost them a record $13.5bn worth of stock nearly a decade ago. (Since the acquisition closed in mid-2005, Symantec stock has returned just 10%, while the Nasdaq has doubled during that period.) Or more accurately, we should say Symantec shareholders will continue to own the lower-valued IM division until it can finally be sold.

There’s little doubt, in our view, that the spinoff is an interim step. It allows the unit to put up a few quarters of stand-alone performance, perhaps even get some growth back in the IM business. But even as it stands, the division generates more than a half-billion dollars of operating income each year. A buyout shop could certainly make the leverage work on a business like that, particularly once it was ‘optimized.’ (Overall, Symantec spends some 36% of revenue on sales and marketing, even as its sales flatline.)

While the IM business is ultimately likely to land in a private equity portfolio, we would note that we heard an intriguing rumor as Symantec was working through this process. The rumor essentially had Symantec trading its IM unit to EMC for its security division, RSA.

On paper, the swap makes sense, allowing each of the tech giants to focus on their core businesses. According to our understanding, however, talks didn’t get too far along because of the valuation (the Veritas business is about twice as big as RSA) and because of the tax hit that the companies would take due to the asset swap. (As it is, the spinoff of Veritas is tax-free to Symantec shareholders.) And now, of course, EMC is under pressure to undertake a corporate restructuring of its own.

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

Can tech companies wearing sensible shoes be nimble?

Contact: Brenon Daly

As the tech giants get more and more gray hair on their heads, they all seem to desperately want to be young again. How else to explain the impetuous plan by the sensible shoe-wearing Hewlett-Packard to separate its enterprise and consumer businesses, with the stated goal of making the two independent companies more ‘nimble?’ Do the architects of the plan somehow think that cutting in half a 75-year-old company will create two businesses in their late 30s?

Remember, too, that about three years ago, HP initially dismissed a similar (but smaller-scale) plan to spin off just its PC business. At the time, executives said HP was ‘better together,’ citing low supply costs, improved distribution and easier cross-selling from the broad HP portfolio.

So why the change of heart that will result in a messy disentanglement taking about a year to implement, costing billions of dollars and resulting in as many as 10,000 additional job cuts? We suspect the fact that HP sales are now 10% lower than when it dismissed that spinoff plan may have something to do with it. (As we noted earlier, HP is basically splitting itself into two companies roughly the size of Dell, which itself had a massive and contested change in corporate structure last year as it sought a ‘fresh start’ through a $24bn leveraged buyout (LBO).)

In addition to HP – Silicon Valley’s original startup – a number of other tech industry standard-bearers have found (or likely will find) themselves under pressure to radically overhaul their corporate structure in pursuit of growth. Some of these have already been targeted by activist hedge funds, while others are still on a watch-list:

  • CA Technologies: Revenue is declining at the 38-year-old company, but it still throws off a ton of cash, trading at less than 10 times EBITDA. Its size and financial profile make it a textbook LBO candidate.
  • EMC: Already under pressure by an activist shareholder to ‘de-federate’ its business, EMC has staunchly resisted calls for change with a variation on the ‘better together’ theme. (But then, so did eBay until recently.) With VMware, it owns one of the most valuable pieces of the IT vendor landscape.
  • Symantec: After a decade of trying to marry enterprise storage and security, a corporate divorce seems likely at some point. (The three CEOs the company has had in the past two years have all kicked around such a separation.) Meanwhile, the topline is flat and Symantec trades at a discount to the overall tech market at just 2.5 times sales.
  • Citrix Systems: In business for a quarter-century, Citrix rode the wave of client-server software to a multibillion-dollar market value. However, despite numerous acquisitions and focus, it has yet to fully capitalize on the next wave of software delivery, SaaS. That business currently generates about 25% of total revenue at Citrix but is only slightly outpacing overall growth, despite industry trends. Citrix stock has been flat for the past four years, while the Nasdaq has nearly doubled during that period.

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‘One HP’? Not any longer

Contact: Brenon Daly

In the largest-ever corporate overhaul of a tech company, Hewlett-Packard said Monday that it will split its business in half. The 75-year-old company, which had recently marketed itself under the tagline ‘One HP,’ will separate its broad enterprise IT portfolio from its printer and PC unit within a year. Each of the two stand-alone businesses (Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and HP Inc.) will be roughly the size of rival Dell, booking more than $50bn of sales annually.

Increasing those sales, even under the new structure, will be challenging. In discussing the planned separation, HP executives emphasized that the move comes at the end of a three-year ‘fix and rebuild’ phase at the company. During that time, HP’s top line has shrunk more than 10%. It has already laid off 36,000 employees, and said Monday that the final number of employee cuts may reach as high as 55,000. And HP has virtually unplugged its M&A machine, even as rivals such as IBM and Cisco continue to buy their way into new, faster-growth markets.

Through the first three quarters of its current fiscal year, HP has flatlined. The company indicated that will continue into its next fiscal year, which starts in November. While HP didn’t offer specific growth rate targets or forecasts for the stand-alone companies – once they get on the other side of the hugely disruptive separation – executives noted that the two businesses would be more ‘nimble’ and ‘responsive’ than they would be together.

That may well be, but the two businesses will also be burdened by higher costs individually than they currently face. ‘Dis-synergies’ such as higher supply and distribution costs, as well as supporting two full corporate structures, will shrink cash flow, which has been the key metric for Wall Street’s evaluation of HP’s mature business. Still, HP will throw off several billion dollars of free cash flow.

Some of that cash appears to be earmarked for M&A, although spending there will be a distant afterthought behind dividends and share repurchases. (And HP executives were quick to add that any deals would be ‘return-driven’ and ‘disciplined.’) But even stepping back into the market for acquisitions represents a dramatic shift at HP. After all, it was a series of poor acquisitions – most notably Autonomy but also services giant EDS – that partially forced the prolonged restructuring that culminated in this planned separation.

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

VMware needs more ‘Know Limits’, less of ‘No Limits’

Contact: Brenon Daly

As VMware lowers the curtain Thursday on its annual gathering of customers and partners, we have a suggestion for planning VMworld 2015: come up with a better tagline than this year’s conference. The slogan ‘No Limits’ was inescapable at this week’s confab, graffitied onto walls and parroted by most VMware executives. Undoubtedly, the focus-grouped message was meant to convey the image of VMware standing as a central provider in an IT landscape of boundless resources, all flowing together seamlessly.

The reality, of course, is not quite so idyllic. (Just ask anyone at VMworld who has gone hand to hand in the past with some of the company’s management products, which have now been further complicated by being bundled together in vRealize Suite.) Enterprise technology is messy and prone to breaking down. The solution to that complexity isn’t to add more.

Rather than pushing the idea of No Limits, VMworld would have been more responsibly taglined ‘Know Limits.’ We acknowledge that our tweak on the slogan knocks some of the enthusiasm out of it. And when a company needs to come up with $1bn of net new revenue next year (taking the top line from basically $6bn in 2014 to $7bn in 2015), enthusiasm is a key selling point.

The kicker on VMware’s selection of No Limits as its central message to the 22,000 attendees of its annual confab is that the company should know that there are indeed limits to technology. In fact, at last year’s VMworld the company was only just dusting itself off after having hit some limits of its own. It found out, for instance, that it wasn’t an application software vendor, so it divested SlideRocket and Zimbra as part of a larger reorganization in the first half of 2013.

There’s no doubt that VMware is a far healthier company at this year’s VMworld than it was at last year’s event. (For the record, the 2013 VMworld tagline was ‘Defy Convention.’) We would argue that the company is healthier because it replaced its freewheeling, expansive operations with a more focused and disciplined approach to business. (In other words, VMware imposed some limits on itself.) Strategically, it pared down its portfolio and simplified it into three distinct offerings. The net result? VMware is growing 50% faster in the two quarters leading into this year’s VMworld than in the two quarters heading into last year’s confab.

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IBM shifts x86 biz to Lenovo

Contact: Scott Denne John Abbott

IBM sheds its x86 server business in a $2.3bn sale to Lenovo, continuing its record-breaking streak of divestitures. When the deal closes, Big Blue will have rid itself of a division that generated $4.6bn in revenue last year and, like most x86 server businesses, experienced declining revenue.

Asset sales generally go for about 1x revenue, and hardware and pure services businesses are usually valued below that. Still, at 0.5x revenue, the deal comes toward the low end of IBM asset sales, but it’s still far better than the last time these two companies met at the M&A table. In 2005, Lenovo acquired IBM’s PC business for just 0.16x sales. Only once has Big Blue sold a business for more than $250m and collected more than 1x revenue.

IBM’s largest divestitures

Date announced Asset Acquirer Valuation Revenue multiple
January 23, 2014 x86 server business Lenovo $2.3bn 0.5x
April 17, 2012 Retail store solutions Toshiba TEC $850m 0.7x
January 25, 2007 Printing systems division Ricoh $1.42bn 0.7x
December 7, 2004 PC business Lenovo $1.75bn ~0.16x
June 4, 2002 Hard drive operations Hitachi $2.8bn 1.4x

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase

The sale lines up with several of IBM’s strategic ambitions. For one, it helps free the company to be a cloud services provider, instead of having to sell x86 servers to service providers while simultaneously competing with them. However, in some ways the move could complicate that effort, as Lenovo, which will be the primary supplier of x86 technology to IBM, may not be able to make the required R&D investments that will keep its products at the cutting edge. The Lenovo business model relies on volume shipments and won’t bear heavy R&D spending.

Also, the x86 business has low margins and shrinking revenue; unloading it will help Big Blue reach its goal of $20-per-share annual earnings by 2015. According to surveys by TheInfoPro, a service of 451 Research, customer spending on IBM servers has moved backwards a bit, with 36% of its customers in 2013 stating they would spend less on IBM servers during the following year, up from 23% and 27% in 2012 and 2011.

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