Lawson ‘Infor-med’ of unsolicited offer

Contact: Brenon Daly

In the middle of last year, we penciled out a takeout scenario for Lawson Software that gave the old-line maker of ERP software an equity value of about $1.7bn. Turns out we were off by just $100m. On Friday, the acquisitive, private equity-backed rollup machine Infor Global Solutions floated an unsolicited $1.8bn offer for Lawson. The target said only that it has retained Barclays Capital to advise it on the process.

We thought Lawson might find itself in play because activist shareholder Carl Icahn had taken about 10% of the company’s stock and started talking about ‘maximizing shareholder value.’ (Some of that has already showed up in Lawson’s recent stock chart. When Icahn revealed his stake last summer, shares were changing hands at about $8 each, compared to the $11.25 offer from Infor. We would note that the stock traded through the bid on Monday, hitting a high of $12.87 before settling down at about $12.25 in afternoon activity.)

In many ways, Lawson presents something of an easy target for Icahn and the would-be buyout group. License revenue has slipped in both of the company’s quarters so far this fiscal year. Meanwhile, it has been deemphasizing its consulting services, which is still one-third of total sales. So that business is dropping, too. The only growth has been seen in Lawson’s maintenance revenue. That business runs at an 80% gross margin, one of the main reasons Lawson generates so much cash.

Over the past four quarters, Lawson has thrown off some $116m of EBITDA on $745m of sales, a healthy 16% margin. If we put that trailing performance against Infor’s bid, Lawson is garnering a not-too-shabby multiple: 2.4 times sales and 15x EBITDA. Infor’s bid represents the highest price for Lawson stock in nine years, and would be CEO Charles Philips’ first deal since coming over from Oracle last October.