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.

Teradata pays a tidy premium for Aprimo

Contact: Brenon Daly

Announcing its first major acquisition since it was spun off into a stand-alone company more than three years ago, Teradata said it will pay $525m in cash for Aprimo. The deal marks a significant bet by the data-warehousing giant on the application market. Specifically, Aprimo brings a marketing automation offering to run on top of Teradata’s existing business analytics offering. Aprimo products will continue to be marketed and sold under the company’s name once the transaction closes, which is expected in the first quarter.

According to a conference call discussing the acquisition, Aprimo is expected to generate about $80m in annual sales. (We understand that roughly $60m of that is recurring revenue.) That means Teradata is paying a healthy 6.5 times revenue for Aprimo. That’s slightly ahead of the valuation that IBM paid in its big marketing automation play four months ago. Big Blue handed over $523m in cash for Unica, valuing the publicly traded company at 4.8 times trailing revenue.

Part of Aprimo’s premium could likely be attributed to the fact that it was steadily moving its business from a license model to a subscription basis. In fact, Aprimo’s SaaS offering accounted for a majority of its revenue. IBM’s move was important in the Aprimo process, as we gather that Teradata and Aprimo started talking only after Big Blue had closed its acquisition.

‘You bought what? For how much?’

Contact: Brenon Daly

In both of the largest enterprise IT acquisitions so far this year, the deals are not what they seem. Or more accurately, the target companies were not acquired for what they are. What do we mean? Well, we would posit that Intel didn’t buy McAfee for its core security applications any more than SAP scooped up Sybase for its core database product. Instead, in each case, the buyers really only wanted a small part of the business but found themselves nonetheless writing multibillion-dollar checks for a whole company.

For SAP, the apps giant really wanted Sybase’s mobile technology, essentially using the Sybase Unwired Platform to ‘mobilize’ all of its offerings. It’s nice that the purchase also brought along some data-management capabilities, particularly some pretty slick in-memory database technology. But for SAP, this deal was all about getting its apps onto mobile devices. However, Sybase’s mobile business only generated about one-third of total revenue at the company. So SAP ends up handing over $5.8bn in cash for a business that’s currently running at just $400m.

If anything, Intel is paying even more for the business that it truly wanted – or, at least, the business that’s most relevant – at McAfee: embedded security. Yet that’s only a small (undisclosed) portion of the roughly $2bn revenue at McAfee, the largest stand-alone security vendor. Tellingly, Intel plans to operate as a kind of holding company, letting McAfee continue undisturbed with its business of selling security applications to businesses and consumers.

A post-IPO shopping list for QlikTech

Contact: Brenon Daly, Krishna Roy

Bucking the trend of trimmed prices and broken issues for tech IPOs, QlikTech debuted on the market Friday with a strong offering. The analytics vendor sold 11.2 million shares at $10 each, above the $8.50-9.50 range the company had set. In their Nasdaq debut, shares of QlikTech continued higher, changing hands at around $12.50 in early-afternoon trading. With 75 million shares outstanding, that gives the company an initial market capitalization of some $940m. (That’s basically spot-on to where we expected the company to begin its life on Wall Street when the paperwork first came in.)

As the proceeds from the IPO make their way to QlikTech, we’ve put together a handy-dandy shopping list for the company. Not that we necessarily expect QlikTech to immediately step into the M&A market. After all, it’s got a pretty solid business running right now. In recession-wracked 2009, QlikTech managed an impressive 33% increase in revenue. Even more impressive, the company doubled that rate in the first quarter of this year. Perhaps mindful of not messing with a good thing, QlikTech hasn’t done any deals up to now.

Nonetheless, my colleague Krishna Roy recently noted that QlikTech is essentially a one-product company that competes against the enterprise software giants that sell analytics as part of a larger product suite. (IBM, Oracle and SAP combined to snap up all three primary BI vendors in a string of deals that, collectively, set them back $15bn.) Further, one of QlikTech’s key technological advantages that the company helped pioneer (in-memory analytics) has become much more commonplace. Both of those facts turn up the competition on QlikTech, which might benefit from looking out-of-house for some additional technology.

If so, one area where we could imagine QlikTech going shopping is in the predictive analytics market. The company already offers some predictive analytics with the inclusion of advanced aggregation features in the latest QlikView 9. But additional technology could make for an easy knock-on sale to existing customers. (That’s a key for QlikTech, which gets roughly 60% of its revenue from existing customers.) Two small startups that might fit the bill for QlikTech are Revolution Analytics and Rapid-I.

QlikTech looks likely to click on the market

Contact: Brenon Daly

Even though the public market has been fairly choppy lately, there seems to be no shortage of companies willing to step into the uncertain waters. We’ve seen a number of recent IPO filings, as companies get their final 2009 numbers in order and look ahead to a possible summer offering. The problem is that few of the would-be debutants actually look all that attractive. Included in the current lineup of IPO candidates are a deeply money-losing company that will stay in the red for at least the next two years (Tesla Motors) and a barely baked company that generated a grand total of $36,000 in revenue last year (Vringo).

Those IPO candidates, along with most of the rest of the recent vintage, hardly approach the caliber of offerings of SolarWinds and Fortinet, among other companies that made it public last year. But we understand that may be about to change as rumors indicate that one of the stronger private tech companies has set its underwriting lineup. QlikTech has picked bankers and will look to put in its IPO paperwork shortly, according to several sources. (Morgan Stanley, CitiGroup and JPMorgan will reportedly be running the books on the offering.)

We noted a possible future offering more than two years ago, coming off a year when the analytics provider increased revenue 80% to $80m. QlikTech followed that up with $120m in revenue for 2008, and we understand that the vendor actually boosted its top line again in 2009. If indeed QlikTech does file its S1 and eventually manages to go public, it will help to replenish a bit of the market that got picked over pretty thoroughly. Recall the shopping spree by tech giants back in 2007 that saw BI vendors Hyperion Solutions, Business Objects and Cognos all get erased from the public markets. The collective tab for that BI shopping spree: $15bn.

Informatica: Just dating or something more?

Contact: Brenon Daly, Krishna Roy

Is it just dating, or are they looking to get married? That was a question that Wall Street was kicking around last week after Hewlett-Packard and Informatica announced a deeper relationship. The new accord sees HP licensing a number of Informatica’s offerings so that it can provide its customers with data management products. HP is also supplying these same wares from Informatica as part of its existing consulting services for business intelligence (BI) and related arenas and pushing these combined offerings through its direct sales force. (My colleague Krishna Roy has a full report on the tie-up.)

The announcement, which came out last Tuesday, didn’t initially generate much speculation about the relationship between the two longtime partners. However, by Friday, Wall Street was reading much more into the joint agreement. Shares of Informatica rallied almost 7% on Friday, with volume more than three times heavier than average. (The rally continued a strong run by Informatica, which has seen its shares gain some 56% so far this year, vastly outpacing the 32% advance for the Nasdaq in 2009.)

However, both HP and Informatica have taken great pains to position themselves as independent software providers. Indeed, even as HP announced that it would be doing more with its relationship with Informatica, it also clearly said that it will continue to work with other data management and BI vendors. And on the other side, we noted that ‘neutrality’ may have come up in rumored talks last year between Informatica and Oracle. In any case, the independence and openness stand in contrast to the moves in this market by IBM – the rival that’s the primary target of the deeper HP-Informatica partnership. Big Blue spent $1.14bn in cash in March 2005 for Ascential Software, an acquisition that most observers would say hasn’t delivered.

IBM-Exeros: the wind-down and the bid-up

Contact: Brenon Daly

Even in the ongoing recession, the fundamental economic laws concerning supply and demand still haven’t been overturned. That’s at least one lesson we can draw from the recent sale of the assets of data discovery startup Exeros. Although terms weren’t disclosed, we believe IBM paid about $13m for Exeros. While that hardly seems like a blockbuster exit for a VC-backed startup that raised some $19m, we would note that the price is four times higher than the offer Exeros received from its first bidder.

As we understand the process, SAP offered just $3m for the assets. Exeros gambled and let the ‘no shop’ period expire on SAP’s bid and then successfully enticed IBM. (Big Blue will slot in the Exeros technology alongside a number of other tools in its Information Management portfolio.) One source added that IBM agreed to an earn-out that could take the final price up to $20m, potentially making Exeros’ backers whole on their investment.

Whatever IBM ends up handing over for Exeros, the target should probably consider any amount over SAP’s initial bid a windfall. The last time we spoke with Exeros (in mid-September, just before capitalism as we know it ended), the unprofitable startup said it was looking to raise a third round of funding that would carry it through to break-even status. Of course, we can all imagine how those fundraising conversations must have gone.

So instead of drawing down money, Exeros was wound down. However, the resulting transaction wasn’t like the dozens of scrap sales that we’ve seen in recent months, where a single buyer pushes the price down so low that the startup’s investors get just pennies on the dollar. With both SAP and IBM bidding, Exeros’ backers may well break even. And that’s not a bad return, given what they were facing.

Netezza nibbles

A few months after indicating it was ready to buy its way into analytics, Netezza has inked its first deal as part of the initiative. The company said last Thursday that it will pay $6.4m for NuTech Solutions. It’s largely an HR move, with Netezza picking up 30 scientists and engineers from the startup. The addition should help Netezza as it looks to run different types of complex analytics inside Netezza Performance Server, rather than just enlist help from partners – including vendors, academic institutions, developers and consultancies – through its existing Netezza Developer Network.

Rival data-warehousing vendors are also looking to add more smarts to their boxes. So far, however, that hasn’t meant much shopping. For instance, Teradata and SAS Institute cozied up and unveiled a joint roadmap last October involving integrating various SAS wares, including its analytics and data-mining algorithms, into the Teradata database. (Netezza also has partnerships with SAS and rival predictive analytics vendor SPSS.) Meanwhile, Greenplum also announced support for embedded analytics in the latest release of its warehouse, G3.

We wonder if the NuTech deal – Netezza’s first acquisition – is a bit of an appetizer ahead of a larger bite of the analytics market. We’ve highlighted a couple of tasty targets for Netezza, including existing partner Manthan Systems, which focuses solely on the retail industry, or KXEN, which would fit well with Netezza’s mission to expand the scope of its query technology. With its treasury stuffed with cash from its recent IPO, Netezza certainly has the resources to do the deals.  

Selected data warehousing-analytics transactions

Acquirer Target Announced Deal value
Teradata DecisionPoint Software Nov. 2005 Not disclosed
IBM Alphablox July 2004 $37m*
Netezza NuTech Solutions May 2008 $6.4m

Will Larry buy Switzerland?

Informatica’s acquisition of Identity Systems, which closed last Thursday, brought the data integration specialist even closer to Oracle. The two companies have had an odd relationship, with Informatica competing against the behemoth virtually since it opened its doors some 15 years ago. (Despite the fact that Oracle gives away its bare-bones Warehouse Builder, Informatica has been able to build up a business that rang up nearly $400m in sales last year, having grown revenue more than 20% for three straight years.)

Through its non-stop acquisitions, Oracle actually OEMs three bits of technology from Informatica, including the just-acquired Identity Systems. Mantas – an anti-money-laundering vendor acquired by Oracle’s i-flex solutions – includes the identity resolution technology from Identity Systems. (Informatica had older OEM arrangements with Hyperion Solutions and Siebel Systems, both of which were gobbled up by Oracle.)

Recently, rumors have been picking up that Oracle may be looking to own Informatica outright. Making such a move would dramatically strengthen Oracle’s data-quality offering, as well as beef up its semi-structured and unstructured data integration story. (Those are areas where IBM has a pretty solid portfolio.) Oracle has already made a small acquisition in this market, spending an estimated $45m on Sunopsis in October 2006. But it still trails the business that rival IBM has acquired through its purchases of Ascential Software and DataMirror.

Of course, one of Informatica’s main selling points is that it’s a neutral party and doesn’t push other applications. That pitch has resonated with customers. Last year, Informatica posted license revenue growth of 20%. Of course, that neutrality would be gone if Oracle gobbled up Informatica. However, Ellison and the rest of the sharp-penciled M&A group at Oracle are realists at the bottom line. Financially, it may be worthwhile for them to give up several hundred of Informatica’s 3,000 customers as a way to protect a database revenue stream. 

Selected data integration deals

Acquirer Target Announced Deal value
IBM Ascential March 2005 $1.1bn
IBM DataMirror July 2007 $162m
Oracle Sunopsis Oct. 2006 $45m*