PE firms back at the table

Contact: Brenon Daly

The buyout barons might not be as powerful as they were before the Credit Crisis, but that doesn’t mean the financial buyers can’t elbow aside their rivals from the corporate world. Earlier this week, Golden Gate Capital topped an existing agreement that Conexant Systems had with fellow chipmaker Standard Microsystems. While it wasn’t unusual for private equity (PE) firms to take auctions when credit was flowing cheap and easy, it’s been relatively rare in the past two years.

Terms call for Golden Gate to hand over $2.40 for each share of Conexant, giving the deal an equity value of roughly $180m. (Additionally, the company carries $86m of net debt.) The buyout firm’s all-cash offer topped a cash-and-stock bid of $2.25 per share from Standard Microsystems. The new agreement has a ‘no shop’ clause and is not conditional on financing. It also carries a $7.7m breakup fee, exactly the same amount that Standard Microsystems is pocketing for its trouble.

A 7% bump in acquisition price may not seem like much, but it could be an early signal that PE firms are getting much more aggressive in deals. That’s actually what corporate development executives told us they expected in 2011 from their PE rivals. In our annual survey, nearly four out of 10 (38%) corporate buyers said they expected more competition from buyout shops, compared to just 13% who said the opposite.