ACI looks to crash S1’s wedding

Contact: Brenon Daly

Just a month after announcing its largest-ever acquisition, S1 Corp has found itself unexpectedly (and perhaps unwelcomely) on the other end of a potential transaction. The payments software maker agreed in late June to acquire Fundtech in a stock swap valued at $326m. On Tuesday, ACI Worldwide sought to play the spoiler in that planned marriage, pitching an unsolicited offer to S1 that it says holds ‘significant upside’ compared to the proposed Fundtech deal.

ACI is offering $9.50 in cash and stock for each share of S1, for total consideration of $540m. The bear hug represents a premium of 33% over S1’s previous closing price and the highest price for the stock since late 2004. ACI says it has the financing lined up and could close the deal by the end of the year. Although S1 hasn’t responded to ACI’s proposal, its stock traded in line with the offer, changing hands on Tuesday afternoon at about $9.35.

In some ways, the current interest in S1 is about a half-decade overdue. We speculated in September 2006 that the company was likely on its way out. At that time, S1 was busy unwinding some misguided deals that it had inked years earlier as part of a larger ‘strategic review.’ (The divestitures came at a time when activist hedge fund Ramius Capital was the company’s largest shareholder.) Had it made its move then, ACI could have picked up the company on the cheap: S1 was trading at half the level of ACI’s current bid.