Strategic ardor for Arbor

Contact: Brenon Daly

In yet another sign that private equity (PE) still hasn’t recovered to the level that the buyout barons enjoyed in the halcyon days before the Credit Crisis, consider the process around Arbor Networks. The network security and monitoring vendor had many of the characteristics that would typically appeal to a PE shop: a mature company that was running at about $100m, with EBITDA margins approaching the mid-teens, according to our understanding. Along with the decent cash generation, 10-year-old Arbor was also growing, targeting about 20% expansion for 2011.

Even though some half-dozen PE firms looked at Arbor, the company ended up going to a strategic acquirer, Tektronix. (See our full report on the deal, which wasn’t the most intuitive pairing we could have come up with for Arbor. That said, as my colleague Andrew Hay notes in the report, the acquisition of Arbor gives Tektronix a way to couple its network diagnostics and management of fixed, mobile, IP and converged multiservice networks with security and threat mitigation products.)

So while the portfolio expansion certainly makes sense for Tektronix, there’s also the interesting side note that, in this case, a strategic buyer is outbidding would-be financial acquirers. Further, that’s largely without relying on so-called ‘synergies,’ or cost savings from cutting duplicative operations at the acquired company to effectively lower the valuation for a corporation. (The reason: Tektronix is basically absorbing all of Arbor, running it as a stand-alone business.) That sort of corporate dealmaking is a far cry from three years ago, when the low cost of capital sometimes allowed PE firms to outbid companies, even when a not-insignificant amount of synergies figured into the deal.

Private equity activity

Period Deal volume Deal value
Jan. 1-Aug. 10, 2010 170 $18.4bn
Jan. 1-Aug. 10, 2009 170 $3.8bn
Jan. 1-Aug. 10, 2008 158 $18.3bn
Jan. 1-Aug. 10, 2007 209 $109.7bn
Jan. 1-Aug. 10, 2006 189 $53bn

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase