Cloudflare’s scorching debut

by Scott Denne

The enthusiasm for enterprise technology IPOs continues unabated as Cloudflare rips past its private company valuation in its first day of trading. The network services provider priced above its range and jumped up from there when it opened on the NYSE, benefiting from a continued demand for new offerings.

Wall Street saw a few rough patches over the month between the time Cloudflare unveiled its IPO paperwork and the first day of trading – the S&P 500 dropped 2% on two separate days. Yet the overall direction has been in its favor, with that index having risen nearly 3% over the past four weeks and Cloudflare’s competitor Fastly, which had been one of the worst-performing enterprise IPOs of the year, rising more than 90% during that period, leaving today’s offering with a higher comp.

As we noted in our coverage of Cloudflares IPO filing, it needed to garner a 12x trailing revenue multiple to move past the price of its series D round. About an hour into trading, it could boast a 23x multiple. That takes Cloudflare well past Fastly, which trades at 16x, highlighting the public market’s penchant for growth. Cloudflare, the larger of the two, expanded its topline 48% year over year in its most recently reported quarter, compared with Fastly’s 34%.

Figure 1

Going it alone

by Brenon Daly, Liam Eagle


After bulking up in recent years in part to fend off the ever-expanding influence of the cloud suppliers, web hosting and managed service providers are now going it alone. For the most part, they’ve closed the M&A playbook, or at the very least, dramatically scaled back their acquisition ambitions. Deal spending this year is likely to slump to its lowest annual level since the recession a decade ago.

Based on the M&A pace through the first seven months of 2019, full-year spending on acquisitions in the hosting/managed services market is tracking to about $3bn, according to 451 Research’s M&A KnowledgeBase. Assuming the back half of 2019 plays out the way the year has gone so far, the value of announced transactions in the sector would be less than one-third the annual spending in any of the previous four years.

There are several reasons for the decline, including a few drivers that may be gone and not coming back. For starters, some of the biggest deals done by hosting and managed service providers in recent years were straightforward consolidations. Hosting companies were looking at their peers as a way to grab as much infrastructure (and as many customers) as possible and then wring out operational efficiencies.

However, with the rise of the cloud hyperscalers – providers that, collectively, spend billions of dollars a year on building and maintaining their clouds, and still have tens of billions of dollars in their treasuries – infrastructure became something of a commodity. For hosting firms, that has meant it’s no longer economical to acquire rivals to pile up infrastructure. Instead of buying, they are renting. Virtually all managed hosting vendors offer front-end management of cloud infrastructure from hyperscalers.

This shift in strategy isn’t only being driven from the supply side, however. A recent 451 Research survey of more than 700 IT buyers and users found that pricing was the key determinant of whether organizations used managed services. Slightly more than six out of 10 respondents (62%) told our Voiceof the Enterprise: Cloud, Hosting and Managed Services survey that lower costs were the main business case for managed services. That handily topped the half-dozen or so other benefits, which were all in the 40% range and below.

Figure 1: Hosted/managed services acquisition activity

A rare services deal from Salesforce

by Scott Denne


Salesforce accelerates its 10-figure acquisitions, making its third such deal in 18 months. The $1.35bn purchase of ClickSoftware is notable not only because, coming just days after the close of its $15.1bn reach for Tableau, it represents an uptick in billion-dollar transactions from the CRM giant, but also because it marks a new phase its Salesforce’s M&A strategy – paying $1bn for a bolt-on acquisition.

In its five previous $1bn-plus purchases, Salesforce launched new lines of business, beginning with its entry into marketing software when it bought ExactTarget back in 2013. More recently, it got into data integration with MuleSoft ($6.6bn) and drastically reshaped its BI portfolio with Tableau. In reaching for ClickSoftware, a developer of field services management applications, Salesforce adds to its already sizeable Service Cloud offerings.

Only twice in any of its previous 57 acquisitions this decade has Salesforce added to its Service Cloud. The reason: it hasn’t needed to. Service Cloud generates about $3.6bn in revenue, making it the second-largest of Salesforce’s product groups, just behind its $4bn Sales Cloud, which it will likely catch, as the former grew 27% and the latter 13% year over year in the last quarter.

Salesforce M&A

Onapsis on the block?

Contact: Brenon Daly

Enterprise application security startup Onapsis quietly kicked off a sale process about a month ago, according to our understanding. Several sources have indicated that Onapsis, which focuses on hardening security for SAP implementations, has hired UBS to gauge interest among buyers. And while there undoubtedly will be acquisition interest in the startup, Onapsis may ultimately prove to be a bit of a tough sell. The reason? The most obvious buyers for the company don’t typically pay the type of valuations that Onapsis is thought to be asking.

In many cases, the heavy-duty SAP systems that Onapsis helps secure were implemented by one of the big consulting shops. So at least theoretically, it’s not a big leap to imagine one of these consultancies buying Onapsis and offering its platform, exclusively, to help safeguard these mission-critical systems and the data they generate. (Indeed, Onapsis already has partnerships with many of the big consulting firms, including KPMG, PWC, Accenture and others.) While that strategy may be sound, M&A always comes down to pricing. And that’s why we would think it’s probably more likely than not that eight-year-old Onapsis remains independent.

According to our understanding, Onapsis is looking to sell for roughly $200m, which would be twice the valuation of its September 2015 funding. The rumored ask works out to about 8x bookings in 2016 and 4.5x forecast bookings for this year. For a fast-growing SaaS startup, those aren’t particularly exorbitant multiples. Yet they may well price out any consulting shops, which have typically either picked up small pieces of specific infosec technology or just gobbled up security consultants. Any reach for Onapsis would require a consulting firm to pay a significantly richer price than the ‘tool’ or ‘body’ deals they have historically done.

Rackspace pivots to private

Bruised by a fight in the clouds, Rackspace has opted to go private in $4.3bn leveraged buyout (LBO) with Apollo Global Management. The company, which has been public for eight years, is in the midst of a transition from its original plan to sell basic cloud infrastructure, where it couldn’t compete with Amazon Web Services, to taking a more services-led approach. Terms of the take-private reflect the fact that although Rackspace has made great strides in overhauling its business, much work remains.

Leon Black’s buyout shop will pay $32 for each share of Rackspace, which is exactly the price the stock was trading at a year ago. Further, it is less than half the level that shares changed hands at back in early 2013. Of course, at that time, Rackspace was growing at a high-teens clip, which is twice the 8% pace the company has grown so far this year.

In terms of valuation, Rackspace is going private at just half the prevailing market multiple for large LBOs so far in 2016. According to 451 Research’s M&A KnowledgeBase, the previous nine take-privates on US exchanges valued at more than $500m have gone off at 4.4x sales. (See our full report on the record number – as well as valuations – of take-privates in 2016.) In comparison, Rackspace is valued at just slightly more than 2x trailing sales: $4.3bn on $2bn of revenue, with roughly the same amount of cash as debt.

More relevant to Rackspace as it moves into a private equity (PE) portfolio is that even as the company (perhaps belatedly) transitions to a new model – one that includes offering services on top of AWS, Azure and other cloud infrastructure providers that Rackspace once competed against – is that it generates a ton of cash. Sure, growth may be slowing, but Rackspace has still thrown off some $674m of EBITDA over the past year.

The company’s 33% EBITDA margin is even more remarkable when we consider that Rackspace, which has more than 6,000 employees, is relatively well-regarded by its customers for its ‘fanatical’ support of its offerings. While we could imagine that focus on customer service as competitive differentiator might set up some tension under PE ownership (people are expensive and tend not to scale very well), Rackspace has the advantage of having built that into a profitable business. In short, Rackspace is just the sort of business that should fit comfortably in a PE portfolio.

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

Mimecast sets stage for IPO

Contact: Scott Denne

Mimecast’s business is best described in the same language as the enterprise email systems it has grown up managing: reliable, but not very exciting. The 12-year-old provider of archiving, management and security of business email is prepping for an IPO, and the prospectus published in pursuit of that shows a company that, at least for the last few years, has put up steady numbers.

For its most recent fiscal year (ended March 31, 2015), Mimecast posted $116m in revenue, up 31% from the year before and just one percentage point higher than its growth during the previous period. Gross margins in 2014 came in at 68% – the same level as the previous two years – and operating expenses as a percentage of overall revenue have ticked down 10 percentage points in each of the last two years, helping the company trend toward profitability.

What has fluctuated is foreign currency. Nearly two-thirds of Mimecast’s revenue comes from currencies other than the US dollar. In 2014 that brought it a $5m gain, pushing it slightly into the black. The previous year, currency changes led to a $5m expense, contributing to a $16m loss.

When it comes to the valuation the company might fetch, we look at Proofpoint as the best indicator of where Mimecast might trade. The quasi-competitor posts similar gross margins and a similar growth rate to Mimecast, and is valued at 10x trailing revenue. Even though Proofpoint has far steeper losses, its growth is coming off a revenue base that’s about twice Mimecast’s, and it has built up a fair amount of goodwill (and a 4x increase in its share price in the three-and-a-half years since its IPO) with investors through a series of positive revenue announcements and upward adjustments of revenue guidance. Given those factors, we would expect Mimecast to price below the 10x mark by a few turns, likely in the 5-7x trailing revenue range.

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

Can Dell safeguard the VMware ‘crown jewels’ in EMC acquisition?

Contact: Brenon Daly

In announcing the largest-ever tech transaction, both Dell and EMC repeatedly assured the market that VMware, which has consistently accounted for an outsized chunk of EMC’s overall valuation, would retain its status as ‘first among equals’ in the EMC federation. Roughly speaking, VMware generates only about one-quarter of EMC sales, but accounted for three-quarters of the EMC’s overall value before the acquisition. VMware was rightfully termed the ‘crown jewel’ of the landmark transaction.

However, despite those intentions, VMware has nonetheless lost some of its luster due to the pending acquisition, at least in two key constituencies. Both IT buyers and Wall Street investors are more than a little bearish on Dell owning the virtualization kingpin. Since the acquisition was announced, VMware’s market value has fallen by as much as $5bn. (That decline is also pulling down the overall value of the transaction because part of the consideration is in the form of tracking stock.) VMware shares have slumped to their lowest level since mid-2013.

To understand why Wall Street is selling the Dell-EMC deal, we have to look to the ultimate arbiters of value for any company: customers. And based on 451 Research’s survey of nearly 450 IT decision-makers, Dell has a lot of work to do to ease the concerns that it will mishandle EMC and its ‘crown jewel.’ In our survey, four of 10 IT pros who currently buy EMC products, but do not buy Dell products, gave the proposed acquisition a ‘thumbs down.’ That was almost three times higher than the percentage of pessimistic Dell-only customers. The main reason cited by EMC-only customers for their bearishness? They still view Dell as dealing in commodity technology. Obviously, with that perception, it’s going to be extremely challenging for Dell to hit its target of $1bn ‘revenue synergies’ through its EMC acquisition.

VMW rev 2010-15

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.

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

In the red-hot SaaS SI market, which is the next shop looking to sell?


Contact: Brenon Daly

With IBM picking up Meteorix, we hear there’s another Workday-focused SI currently on the market. CPSG, a Dallas-based shop, is slightly bigger than Meteorix, as well as much more profitable, according to our understanding. And it’s seeking a much richer valuation on its exit.

CPSG posted $25m in revenue in 2014, and the company is reportedly forecasting $35-40m for full-year 2015. Unlike other software implementation firms, however, CPSG throws off a fair amount of cash. It should generate more than $10m of EBITDA this year.

The growth and cash flow at CPSG have the company and its advisers at Robert W. Baird & Co. looking for a top-dollar exit. Current second-round bids are coming in at roughly $140m. (For comparison, subscribers to 451 Research’s M&A KnowledgeBase can see our estimate for the valuation IBM paid for Meteorix.)

Assuming CPSG does print, it would be the latest in a string of SaaS application implementation vendors to sell. Just in the past two months, we have seen three significant SIs snapped up by major service providers in a shopping spree that totals more than $600m. Moreover, these buyers are paying 2-3x their own valuations in their acquisitions, reflecting just how desperate they are to bulk up their practices in the fast-growing SaaS space.

Recent SaaS-focused SI M&A

Date announced Acquirer Target Description Deal value
August 11, 2015 CSC Fruition Partners ServiceNow SI See 451 Research estimate
September 15, 2015 Accenture Cloud Sherpas Salesforce, ServiceNow SI Not disclosed
September 28, 2015 IBM Meteorix Workday SI See 451 Research estimate

Source: 451 Research’s M&A KnowledgeBase

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

Cisco prints second OpenStack deal

Contact: Al Sadowski Jay Lyman Scott Denne

Cisco ups its stake in Piston Cloud Computing by converting its earlier investment into full ownership of the business. The OpenStack ecosystem has seen a number of $100m+ exits in the past 12 months, including Cisco’s own $149m acquisition of Metacloud. The space has also seen a few tuck-ins and modest exits, such as EMC’s Cloudscaling buy and the closure of heavily funded Nebula. Though terms of this deal weren’t disclosed (nor were they in IBM’s just-announced Blue Box Group purchase), consolidation in OpenStack has clearly begun and still has a long way to go. According to 451 Research’s Market Monitor report on OpenStack , 56 of the 76 vendors in this sector generated less than $5m in 2014 revenue.

OpenStack continues to gain momentum among enterprise IT leaders. Now five years old, the project has evolved into a top priority for many IT professionals and suppliers. Cisco’s purchase of Piston Cloud removes a competitor to its Metacloud-based offerings and adds rare OpenStack engineering talent and intellectual property. The acquisition probably saved Piston Cloud from turning out its own lights as the small firm likely found it difficult to compete with larger players with much more sales capacity.

The transaction highlights a couple of things about the current OpenStack market. First, there is still a demand for and dearth of OpenStack talent and expertise. Piston Cloud’s staff is among the most experienced supporting large enterprise OpenStack deployments, which Cisco – a gold sponsor of the OpenStack Foundation – is interested in driving and supporting. Second, the deal highlights how the market is still largely in a services and support phase, whereby enterprise and service-provider customers, even large ones, need intensive support deploying OpenStack. The transaction may also signal that the Metacloud acquisition and integration has been successful for Cisco and helped encourage it to pull the trigger on the Piston Cloud pickup.

We’ll have a full report on this deal in tomorrow’s 451 Market Insight.

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