A round trip for Active Network shares

Contact: Ben Kolada

After a little more than two years of trading on the NYSE, registration and events management software vendor Active Network is leaving the public eye in a $1bn take-private by Vista Equity Partners. The deal carries a fairly paltry valuation, and only returns the company’s share price to basically the same level where it sold them in the IPO. And that was when Active Network’s revenue was roughly one-quarter smaller than it is today.

Vista is paying $14.50 per share in cash for Active Network, valuing the company’s equity at $1.05bn. Including the assumption of cash and capital lease obligations, the deal values Active Network at 2.1x trailing sales. For comparison, the company’s much smaller competitor Cvent is currently valued much higher at $1.4bn, or 14.5x trailing revenue. Citi Capital Markets advised Active Network, while Bank of America Merrill Lynch advised Vista Equity Partners.

We’d argue that the subpar valuation is the combination of meager growth and an inability to meet financial expectations. Wall Street expects Active Network to grow revenue 8.5% this year, to about $455m. Although that’s from a much larger base, it’s still a fraction of the 30% growth analysts expect Cvent to record. Further, financial expectations for Active Network are far from certain, given that the company has repeatedly issued results below its own estimates.

In a roundabout way of acknowledging the company’s public troubles, Vista took a charitable view of the per-share premium, noting that its offer is 111% above the average year-to-date closing price for Active Network. A more grounded view, however, shows the offer only matches Active Network’s $15 IPO price in May 2011, and represents a more common 27% premium to its closing share price Friday.

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