Contact: Ben Kolada
Mobile banking and payments vendor Monitise made a big bet on Monday when it moved to consolidate its industry with the acquisition of startup Clairmail. At first glance, the deal should have set off alarms among Monitise’s investors. The all-stock transaction will significantly dilute Monitise’s shareholders, leaving them owning three-quarters of the combined company. However, its investors remained calm – Monitise’s share price closed down only 2%. Why? Although the deal is richly valued and dilutes Monitise’s shareholders, those same investors are all but assured of their own rich payoff eventually.
Another explanation for the muted shareholder response is that the transaction only seems overvalued on the surface. It is actually fairly valued by several metrics. Monitise’s £109m ($173m) offer values Clairmail at 9.3 times trailing sales, a smidgen below its own current 10x enterprise value (Monitise held $68m in net cash at the end of 2011, while Clairmail had $5m). Further, Monitise is also obtaining more valuable customers. Clairmail had 48 banking customers generating a total of $18m in revenue last year, or about $375,000 per customer. Monitise, meanwhile, had more than 250 customers, each of which generated an average of less than $150,000 in annual revenue. And because of Clairmail’s growth rate (its revenue jumped 90% in 2011), its price-to-projected-sales valuation is certain to be much lower. Further placating investors, Monitise is forecasting continued heady growth. The combined company, which would have generated $56m in revenue in 2011 on a pro forma basis, is projecting 2012 total revenue close to $100m.
There’s certainly no reason for alarm among the acquirer’s investors, considering valuations across the mobile payments industry are already high and the potential for Monitise itself to one day find a fruitful takeover offer. In July, eBay announced that it was buying Zong for $240m. And in June, Visa announced that it was buying Fundamo for $110m, or about 11x estimated trailing sales. The latter deal is of particular note, given the growing relationship between Visa and Monitise. Following the Fundamo buy, will Visa make a larger play in mobile payments, perhaps by acquiring Monitise? The two companies are already partners – Visa Europe made a $38m investment in Monitise in October, the two companies equally share a joint venture in India and Visa Europe president and CEO Peter Ayliffe sits on Monitise’s board. And as of February 28, Visa and Visa Europe combined owned 21% of Monitise’s equity.
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