Saying ‘Goodnight’ to a stand-alone SAS?

Contact: Brenon Daly

After years of politely – but unequivocally – rebuffing all M&A approaches, is SAS Institute chief executive James Goodnight suddenly listening to pitches? Rumor has it that Goodnight, who has fashioned the business analytics vendor in the manner of a corporate patriarch of the 19th century, may finally be ready to sell. Any deal for SAS, of course, would have to go through Goodnight, as he owns two-thirds of the company outright.

If SAS is indeed in play – which, granted, is a big, multibillion-dollar assumption – it would represent a dramatic shift in not only the corporate history of the 35-year-old company, but also, more broadly, the landscape for business intelligence (BI) software. Goodnight has steered his firm on a path of independence through the years of consolidation in the BI industry. Most notably, he sat out the spree of deals in 2007 that saw his three largest publicly traded BI rivals get snapped up for a total of some $15bn.

All the while, Goodnight has been shaping a culture at SAS that is a bit of a throwback to the cradle-to-grave employee benefits that other tech vendors, which have to appease outside investors, could never offer. (Among the perks: a pianist who plays in the employee cafeteria, Olympic-sized swimming pools and even onsite Montessori childcare.) SAS employs more than 12,000 people.

SAS’s unique corporate traits have made it not only one of the most valuable privately held software companies, but also one of the most difficult to know what to do with it. (We have referred to SAS as the ‘white elephant’ of the software industry.) A decade ago, SAS worked with Goldman Sachs to explore a possible IPO, but that came to nothing. Goldman is thought to be running the current M&A process for SAS, too.

So that leaves a sale of SAS as Goodnight’s only exit. Companies rumored to be interested in SAS include Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Oracle, SAP and EMC, which is thought to be the lead horse at this point. But there’s still the not-insignificant matter of price. While still loose, the numbers we have heard for SAS, which recorded sales of $2.4bn in 2010, value the company at $12-13bn. Even a price only slightly above that range would make a purchase of SAS the largest-ever software deal, eclipsing Symantec’s $13.5bn stock swap for Veritas Software in late 2004.

Will Adobe-Omniture marriage prompt online video M&A?

-Contact Thomas Rasmussen, Jim Davis

When Adobe Systems and Omniture announced the details and rationale behind their $1.8bn tie-up in mid-September, some interesting items emerged. Highlighted was the obvious benefit from a combination of Adobe’s popular Flash video platform and Omniture’s analytics capabilities. As the Web analytics market has become more saturated, Omniture has recently been expanding into higher-margin niches such as online video analytics. Combining online video content management with analytics is an area in which some early startups have carved out a profitable niche over the past few years as video has finally started to move to the Web.

However, if the newly bulked-up Adobe truly moves into the space – as we suspect the company will – it will undoubtedly present an enormous challenge to an industry previously dominated by a few well-funded startups. As a consequence of other larger players wanting to get a piece of the booming sector and startups being more inclined to strengthen their position, we believe consolidation in the market is inevitable. With that as our premise, who might be buying, and who are the potential prime targets?

Among a slew of startups in the space, the two primary ones we think could be in play in this scenario are market leaders Move Networks and Brightcove. The two have each taken in roughly $90m in venture capital. It is worth noting that both Microsoft and Cisco are strategic investors in Move Networks, and we think the company would make a great fit for either one since both have a strong focus on video moving forward. Meanwhile, both IAC/InterActive and AOL are strategic investors in competitor Brightcove. While we don’t think AOL is in a position to make an acquisition like this now, we would not put it past IAC. Google with its more consumer-oriented YouTube makes a logical acquirer as well, particularly as a way to add a business-friendly enterprise offering.

And finally, we might put forward rich content delivery networks (CDNs) such as Akamai and Limelight Networks. These vendors have been buying their way into premium verticals recently to escape the rapid commoditization of their core business and would be wise to consider acquiring into the space. From the estimated $40m or so in revenue that we understand Brightcove brings in, a large part of that comes from reselling bandwidth through CDNs.

Where might Omniture shop next?

-by Thomas Rasmussen, Kathleen Reidy

When we checked in with Omniture last month, we noted that it was likely to do a bit of shopping. My colleague Kathleen Reidy expanded on that recently with an in-depth report on the possible M&A moves by the analytics giant. Omniture has already shown itself ready to shop, having picked up five companies since its IPO in 2006. Those acquisitions, along with a solid organic growth rate, have helped to push up Omniture’s revenue seven-fold in the past three years. The company finished 2008 with $296m in sales. First-quarter results are due Thursday before the opening bell.

Having essentially consolidated its core market (except for a few private competitors), where might the giant shop next? We think a broader push into marketing automation seems a logical next step. Email marketing is one of the most active areas of Omniture’s Genesis ISV partner program. Potential targets in this space include Eloqua, a well-known and established player in marketing automation. The vendor pulled in an estimated $35m in revenue last year and has so far raised more than $40m in venture funding. Other potential targets include Silverpop, Right On Interactive and Marketbright. Like Mercado Software, which Omniture scooped up last October, all of these email marketing startups are Genesis partners.

Omniture’s acquisitions to date

Target Date Deal value Technology/Rationale
Mercado Software October 14, 2008 $6.5m Retail site search/merchandising
Visual Sciences October 25, 2007 $394m Web analytics market share
Offermatica September 7, 2007 $65m Multivariate testing
Touch Clarity February 14, 2007 $48.5m Behavioral targeting
Instadia January 18, 2007 $11.4m Web analytics market share – Europe

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase