Chordiant: hunter turns hunted

Contact: Brenon Daly

Just a month ago, Chordiant Software was a hunter. Now it’s the hunted. The call-center software vendor attracted an unsolicited – and rather unsatisfying – offer from CDC Software earlier this week. The unusual twist is just the latest development in the already unusual process around the sale of fellow software company Kana Software. Recall that Chordiant, after failing to land Kana, took to sniping at the deal as an activist shareholder. None of that had any impact, as the sale of Kana to midmarket buyout firm Accel-KKR closed in late December.

Chordiant’s unsuccessful bid for Kana came up in CDC’s rationale for making what it terms a ‘proactive’ offer for Chordiant, with acquisitive CDC saying the bid was partly driven by Chordiant’s recognition that it was a ‘sub-scale’ software company. And recently, Chordiant has been falling even further away from being a software vendor of scale. In its most recent fiscal year, which ended September 30, overall revenue dropped by one-third. Granted, that fiscal year covered one of the most difficult economic periods since the Great Depression. But even in the current fiscal year, most Wall Street analysts don’t project that Chordiant will grow much, if at all.

So what does all that mean for Chordiant, which has remained silent to this point on CDC’s offer of $105m in cash and stock? We suspect it’ll probably play out similarly to CDC’s bid in 2006 for another CRM provider, Onyx Software. In that would-be acquisition, CDC was also an unwelcome bidder for Onyx, and the process unfolded fitfully. (Onyx ultimately sold to rollup Consona.) Not that we’re saying CDC will necessarily pull its bid for Chordiant, as it did for Onyx.

Instead, on the other side, we suspect Chordiant will try everything in its power not to end up inside CDC. One key defense: Chordiant has a poison pill in place that doesn’t expire until mid-2011. Also, Chordiant shares are currently changing hands above CDC’s offer of $3.46 for each of them. So if CDC, which is planning to hit the road next week to help sell Chordiant investors on the deal, really wants to add Chordiant’s front-office products to its existing back-office wares, we think it’ll have to present a topping bid. On a call discussing the proposed transaction Friday, CDC chief executive Peter Yip said he’s ‘open minded’ to raising the offer.