Synchronoss: Can middle-aged companies pivot, too?

Contact: Brenon Daly

Announcing the most significant overhaul of its 16-year-old company, Synchronoss has shed a large portion of its legacy telecom business and made an $821m acquisition of collaboration software provider Intralinks in an effort to evolve more fully into an enterprise software vendor. Synchronoss began its enterprise push last year, using smaller purchases to add identity management and enterprise mobility management technology to its portfolio. However, sales to businesses currently generate only a small slice of its overall revenue. With the divestiture and the addition of Intralinks, roughly 40% of the company’s total sales will come from enterprises.

Reflecting the importance of its new focus on enterprises, Synchronoss said the combined entity would be led by current Intralinks CEO Ron Hovsepian, reversing the typical post-acquisition leadership arrangement. Additionally, Synchronoss noted that Intralinks brings a direct sales force of more than 150 sales reps to the effort. However, Intralinks had only been increasing its revenue at a high-single-digit percentage rate so far in 2016. The transaction is expected to close late in the first quarter of 2017.

Synchronoss’ divestiture of a majority portion of its carrier activation business figures into the company’s pivot, as well. The sale of 70% of the unit for $146m to existing partner Sequential Technology reduces the legacy carrier-focused portion of revenue, as well as eases customer-concentration concerns for Synchronoss. The company is still trying to sell the remaining 30% of its activation unit, a process it indicated could take 12-18 months.

A portion of the funds from the divestiture, along with some cash on hand, will go toward covering a bit of the Intralinks buy. However, Synchronoss said it will have to borrow $900m to pay for most of the purchase. (Synchronoss is spending about twice as much on Intralinks as it has spent, collectively, on its previous 11 acquisitions since 2002, according to 451 Research’s M&A KnowledgeBase.) The new debt – along with the accompanying dilution of earnings to service it – unnerved some investors. Shares dropped 12% on the announcement, but are still up about 20% for the year.

Probably more of a concern on Wall Street, however, are the challenges associated with such a dramatic shift in business model – one that has a decidedly mixed record. Already this year, we have seen a number of high-profile companies backtrack on their earlier efforts to use M&A to become enterprise software vendors. Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Lexmark, among others, have all unwound or are trying to unwind billions of dollars of deals they did over the past decade to step from their original business into the enterprise software arena.

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