GTCR gets into marketing software with Vocus buy

Contact: Scott Denne

GTCR jumps into the pricey marketing software industry with a value play. The private equity firm will pay $446.5m in a take-private of Vocus, a public relations and marketing software provider. The deal gives Vocus an enterprise value of $413m, or 2.2x its last 12 months revenue, well below where others in this space have traded hands lately.

At 2.2x, the acquisition is the second-lowest multiple we’ve seen for a marketing software company in the past 24 months. According to The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase , the median multiple for marketing software deals in that period is 7.7x, reflecting the double-digit growth and promising prospects of many vendors in the marketing space. Vocus, on the other hand, has had little growth and doesn’t expect that to change this year.

The company has struggled to grow since it launched a suite of marketing products and acquired email marketing vendor iContact in early 2012. The market reacted negatively to that transaction, pushing its stock price below $20 per share, where it has remained as Vocus has been unable to leverage that deal to grow its business. (GTCR will pay $18 per share; Vocus closed at $12.18 before the deal was announced.)

Vocus finished 2013 with $186.9m in revenue, only $6.5m more than the combined revenue of iContact and Vocus for 2012 and well below the $200m it initially projected for the year – projections that were regularly adjusted down to reflect weaker than expected performance for both its PR and marketing software. For 2014, the company anticipates revenue to shrink by about $4m amid declining sales of iContact and some of its other point products, as well as a flatlining of its PR software business.

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