The Art of hosting

Art Zeile is at it again. The private equity arm of Wachovia recently bought privately held HostMySite for an estimated $60m. Wachovia Capital Partners has tapped Zeile and his management team to lead the company, and intends to aggressively grow the venture through further acquisitions. Despite an unfavorable market for M&As, both Wachovia and Zeile are very bullish about going on a shopping spree. And they have a pile of cash – to the tune upwards of $150m – to do so. We hear that talks are already under way. But while awaiting official word of forthcoming deals, we take a stab at identifying some potential candidates.

Although it’s in a unique position as one of the leaders in the niche managed dedicated hosting space, HostMySite is currently not a heavyweight by any means. It is running about $20-25m in revenue at the moment. Nonetheless, it is the future prospects and track record of the new management that have Wachovia and a few other undisclosed investors so willingly parting with their money. Zeile and his team founded Inflow Inc in 1997, successfully navigated it through the bubble era, and with a few strategic acquisitions turned it into a $70m company. Inflow was sold to SunGard Data Systems in early 2005 for almost $200m.

The managed dedicated hosting sector has seen a lot of consolidation over the past few years. One of the main reasons for this is the prevalence of on-demand and outsourced hosting. The dominant players in the space are looking to build up scale and expand geographically to better meet their customers’ increasing needs.

According to insiders, HostMySite is looking at buying up small to medium-sized companies with revenue greater than $10m, largely focused on managed dedicated hosting. It has a preference for companies based in the West and Midwest, for geographical diversity. The market is littered with hosting providers, but few that fit those parameters, especially ones focused mostly on managed dedicated hosting. We did manage to come up with a few potential targets: LiquidWeb, ServePath, and INetU. All three are making names for themselves in the managed dedicated hosting space – but with revenue between $10-20m, they’re still small enough for a potential acquisition.

Frankly we would be surprised if at least one of these companies wasn’t acquired in the near future, either by HostMySite or another company. In fact, given the revenue multiples typically applied to acquisitions in this space (between 2.5 to 3.5 times trailing 12-month revenue), all three could conceivably be bought for about $100m – leaving ample cash for future endeavors.

Recent select managed hosting acquisitions

Date Acquirer Target Deal value TTM revenue
April 2008 ABRY Partners Hosted Solutions $140m $39m*
December 2006 Fujitsu Services TDS AG $132m NA
June 2008 International Game Technology Cyberview Technology $76m $53m
February 2006 VeriSign 3united Mobile Solutions $65m NA
April 2008 Layered Technologies FastServers.Net $13.5m* $9.5m*

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase * official 451 Group estimate