Contact: Ben Kolada
In a move to accelerate its cloud services, Verizon has announced that it is acquiring cloud and colocation provider Terremark for $1.4bn. As the largest pairing between a telco and a colocation provider, the deal is not only a landmark transaction for the telecommunications industry, but also a significant shift from the growing trend of telcos buying their way into the hosting and colocation sectors by acquiring pure colocation providers.
Verizon is paying $19 per share in cash, a 35% premium over Terremark’s closing price. On an equity value basis, the deal values the target at 4.4 times trailing sales and 18.6x trailing EBITDA. For comparison, the next-largest telco-colo pairing came in May 2010 when Cincinnati Bell bought pure colocation provider CyrusOne for $525m, or 9.1x trailing sales and 16.4x trailing EBITDA. Both Verizon and Terremark’s board of directors have unanimously approved the transaction, and Verizon expects to complete the deal by the end of the first quarter. Terremark’s management team will remain and will operate the company as a wholly owned but independent subsidiary of Verizon.
While earlier acquisitions in this sector were valued based on the growth potential of colocation services, Terremark garnered a higher valuation because of its cloud portfolio, as well as its international presence. During their conference call discussing the acquisition, executives from both companies highlighted the fact that Terremark’s long-term growth lies in its cloud and managed services. This segment provided half of Terremark’s total service revenue during the first six months of its fiscal 2011. Beyond cloud services, the acquisition is also a geographic fit, with Terremark providing Verizon an expanded presence in Latin America, and Verizon providing Terremark additional room to grow in both the US and Europe. As part of the integration, Terremark will assume operations for all of Verizon’s 220 datacenters. (We’ll have a full report on this deal in tonight’s Daily 451.)
After the transaction was announced, shares of competing cloud computing firms soared. While the sector calmed somewhat by midday, shares of Savvis held onto its 15% advance as Wall Street speculated that it might be the next hosting and services company to get snapped up. (Trading in Savvis was more than 10 times its daily average on Friday.) By revenue, the Chesterfield, Missouri-based firm is the largest provider of cloud and colocation services and already sports a $1.7bn market capitalization. As a result, the list of potential suitors is limited, but AT&T stands out as an obvious bidder for Savvis. Just as Savvis is the largest provider among cloud firms, AT&T is the largest provider among telcos and closed 2010 with $124bn in revenue and $1.4bn in cash in its coffers.
Contact: Jarrett Streebin, Ben Kolada, Vishal Jain
Google continues to gobble up startups, and we’ve just uncovered a deal that supports its near field communications (NFC) ambitions. We’ve learned that Google recently picked up Zetawire, a Canadian startup focusing on mobile payments transactions. Like most of Google’s buys, this was a small deal, but it plays into a bigger market.
Little is known about Toronto-based Zetawire, but we suspect that the company was in the pre-revenue stage, making its only valuable asset a patent and corresponding trademark awarded by the US Patent and Trademark office. According to the filing, the patent provides for mobile banking, advertising, identity management, credit card and mobile coupon transaction processing. These features would allow a consumer to make purchases using their smartphone instead of their credit card. Think of a smartphone with this technology as a virtual wallet (in fact, the company has also trademarked the name Walleto for these very purposes).
This acquisition bolsters Google’s position in the coming wave of NFC and the phone as a device for payments, tracking and identification. For Google, the timing of the deal couldn’t have been better. Although we understand that the transaction closed in August, just earlier this month Google released its Nexus S smartphone, which has built-in NFC capabilities. In the meantime, Google’s competitors are hard at work. Research in Motion has also filed a patent for NFC functions, and Nokia in June announced that all of its phones will have NFC capabilities by 2011. Isis, a partnership involving telcos AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon, is also planning a similar mobile wallet and UK startup Proxama has been working on NFC-focused technology for payments and advertising. (We’ll take a deeper look at the Zetawire purchase and the greater NFC market in an upcoming Post-Merger IQ.)
Contact: Brenon Daly
Sterling Commerce has had one of the more colorful and varied ownership histories in the software industry. Founded inside parent company Sterling Software, the business-to-business software vendor was then spun off through an IPO in the mid-1990s before being acquired by SBC Communications (now AT&T) in a Bubble-era deal that valued Sterling Commerce at $3.9bn.
For the past decade, it has been a largely unknown business inside Ma Bell. Although Sterling Commerce generates sales in the hundreds of millions of dollars, it amounts to less than 1% of AT&T’s revenue. AT&T doesn’t break out the financials for Sterling Commerce, but instead lumps the sales into a catch-all bucket of ‘Other.’ To give some idea of the importance of that category, consider that AT&T also accounts for revenue from its pay phones in Other.
We always assumed that some buyout shop would carve out the Sterling Commerce business from the phone giant and use it as a platform to roll up the fragmented business software landscape. (Sterling Commerce had done a few deals of its own, including its $155m purchase of order configuration vendor Comergent Technologies in November 2006.) Instead, Sterling Commerce said Monday that it will now be part of IBM.
Big Blue, which was advised by JP Morgan Securities, is paying just $1.4bn in cash for Sterling Commerce. The transaction, which is expected to close in the second half of 2010, is the largest by IBM in two and a half years. It also comes just weeks after Big Blue announced that it will look to once again be a busy buyer, indicating that it plans to spend $20bn on deals over the next five years. While that figure roughly matches the amount that IBM has spent on M&A over the previous half-decade, the majority of the spending was concentrated in 2005-07.
-by Thomas Rasmussen
Despite its stock trading near a five-year low and plans to cut 10% of its workforce, eBay managed to go shopping last week, picking up a pair of companies for a total of $1.3bn. The auction giant spent $945m on Bill Me Later, an online payment processor popular among big-ticket retailers, and $390m on Danish classifieds giant Den Bla Avis. The acquisitions mark a return by eBay’s recently appointed CEO John Donahoe to a focus on the company’s core operations. It also brings into sharper relief the largest strategic misstep by Donahoe’s predecessor Meg Whitman: the purchase of Skype. We believe that will soon be remedied, with the newly refocused eBay divesting its communications division.
It’s clear why eBay would want to return to its roots, and why the Bill Me Later acquisition makes a lot of sense. (The purchase of Den Bla Avis is another step in the company’s international expansion strategy.) Bill Me Later is a complementary acquisition to eBay’s PayPal payments division, which unlike the Skype acquisition has paid off handsomely. The payments segment now represents more than 25% of total revenue, or $2.2bn for the past 12 months, while Skype only brought in about $475m, or roughly 6% of total revenue. (Remember that eBay paid just $1.5bn for PayPal but handed over $2.5bn for Skype.) So who might want to pick up the Skype business?
Just because eBay has struggled to realize a return on its acquisition of Skype doesn’t mean another owner, particularly one focused on communications, couldn’t do well with the property. With about 340 million registered users, Skype is the undisputed leader in VoIP. That commanding market share is likely to attract attention from the existing telcos. It is particularly enticing once you factor in what is happening in the mobile space right now and Skype’s position to dominate mobile VoIP. So far, the wireless telcos have been fighting to keep Wi-Fi, VoIP and other services they do not control or profit from off their handsets. This is a battle they are quickly losing (case in point: Android, BlackBerry and iPhone). Much in the same way that the legacy telcos were quick to adopt wireless technology when it was still in its infancy rather than cling to the wires, it makes sense to try to profit from the trend rather than fight it. Another likely bidder for Skype is Nokia, which has been an avid acquirer of mobile content in its bid to move away from strictly hardware. In addition, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo might consider picking up Skype, since all three of these companies have used acquisitions to enter the emerging mobile communications market.
Performance of select eBay acquisitions
|Date of acquisition
|Current TTM revenue
|Current revenue to deal value multiple
|September 12, 2005
|July 8, 2002
|October 6, 2008
|Bill Me Later
|$130m (projected for calendar year ending December 31)
|October 6, 2008
|Den Bla Avis
Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase
Newly appointed interim VeriSign CEO Jim Bidzos is picking up where former CEO Bill Roper left off. In a recent conference call, Bidzos (who founded the company) reiterated VeriSign’s plan to shed many of the businesses picked up by the company’s longtime chief executive, Stratton Sclavos. (The acquisition-frenzied CEO inked more than a half-dozen deals in both 2005 and 2006, in addition to several headline-grabbing purchases at the height of the Internet bubble.) We believe VeriSign’s next divestiture is imminent, with the sale of its Communications Services division likely to go through shortly.
We have speculated on this in the past, but some recent developments suggest that a sale is close at hand. VeriSign placed the division in discontinued operations a few months ago, according to recent SEC filings. The unit, which provides communications services such as connectivity, interoperability and mobile commerce, is the largest and most profitable of the company’s non-core business segments. It pulled in $568m for the previous year, ending June 30. That’s down from $579m for calendar year 2007 and $804m in 2006. The decline is mostly related to VeriSign’s divestiture of Jamba, since sales in the rest of the division have been flat. That stagnation stands in contrast to VeriSign’s core business, the Internet Infrastructure and Identity Services division, which increased revenue 20% in the most recent quarter.
As to who might be interested in VeriSign’s Communications Services division, we have learned that there is at least one strategic buyer at the table. In fact, a deal was supposed to be signed, sealed and revealed with the company’s second-quarter earnings. But the transaction was delayed when the potential acquirer took a closer look due to the continued softness in the economy. We expect the divestiture to close soon. The most obvious strategic buyer of the unit is a big telecom shop – namely, Verizon or AT&T. Private equity has also expressed interest in the unit. But since the mystery bidder is said to be strategic, we believe a telco will likely end up as the new owner of VeriSign’s Communications Services unit for a price in the neighborhood of $1bn.
VeriSign’s communications acquisition binge
|November 27, 2006
|March 20, 2006
|March 13, 2006
|February 13, 2006
|3united Mobile Solutions
|January 11, 2006
|January 10, 2005
Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase