Ambulance chasing in tech M&A

Contact:  Brenon Daly

Here’s another sign that tech M&A is getting more active: plaintiffs lawyers have come slithering back into the process. Instead of chasing ambulances, these lawsuit-loving lawyers are now following deal flow. Their tactic: before the ink is even dry on an M&A announcement, threaten an investigation into possible fiduciary breeches by the board at the selling company. To most, the pesky threats are little more than extortion.

In recent weeks, plaintiffs lawyers have taken aim at Chordiant Software for agreeing to sell itself for $161.5m to Pegasystems. (Never mind that Chordiant shareholders are getting 50% more than another suitor offered for the faded CRM vendor just two months ago. And they’re getting it all in cash.) But even more absurd is the decision by a handful of law firms to target Techwell’s decision to sell itself to Intersil in a transaction that gives Techwell a $450m equity value, or an enterprise value of $370m.

Intersil’s bid (on an enterprise value basis) works out to a rather rich valuation of 5.9 times Techwell’s 2009 sales and 4.2x projected 2010 sales, according to Intersil. (We would note that’s roughly twice the valuation that the market currently gives Intersil.) Terms call for Intersil to hand over $18.50 in cash for each Techwell share, a price that represents a relatively rich 50% premium over the previous day’s closing price.

Moreover, Intersil’s bid roughly matches the highest point Techwell shares ever hit on their own, which came back in November 2006. The offer is twice the price at which Techwell went public in mid-2006 and roughly three times the level where shares were changing hands just a year ago. Yet that outperformance hasn’t stopped at least five different law firms from charging that Techwell may not have done right by its shareholders.

Chordiant hits the bid

Contact: Brenon Daly

When Chordiant Software received an unsolicited offer from CDC Software in early January, we were pretty certain that deal had roughly 0% chance of getting done. We noted that Chordiant had a poison pill in place that would make it extremely difficult – and time-consuming – for CDC to finalize the deal. Since a quick close was one of the key concerns for CDC in its bid for Chordiant, we weren’t at all surprised to see the serial buyer pull its cash-and-stock offer just a week after floating it.

In addition to the timing, there was also the consideration that Chordiant shares traded above CDC’s offer the entire time it was out there. (In this case, investors agreed with Chordiant’s contention that the bid ‘undervalued’ the company.) That meant CDC would most likely have to reach a little deeper into its pocket to get the deal done. Although CDC indicated that it may well bump its bid, most observers expected the company to walk. (That’s just how the process played out three years ago, when CDC launched an unsolicited offer for another CRM vendor, Onyx Software, only to come away empty-handed.)

Flip the calendar ahead two months, and Chordiant (advised by Morgan Stanley) has pulled off a pretty rare trick: stiff-arming that unwelcome bid and then securing a richer payday for shareholders. (Most cases tend to look more like Yahoo, which is trading at half the level that Microsoft offered for the company two years ago. Yahoo shares have lost 20% of their value since Microsoft floated its bid, while the Nasdaq has flat-lined in that period.) And Chordiant didn’t just hold out for a nickel or a dime more for its shareholders. It got the highest price for its shares in a year and a half.

Under terms announced Monday, Pegasystems will pay $5 in cash for each share of Chordiant, for a total equity value of $161.5m. That’s 54% more than CDC thought the company was worth, and enough to get Chordiant’s board to (wisely) hit the bid from Pegasystems. Speaking of Chordiant’s board, we would note that chairman Steven Springsteel, who also serves as CEO, is now four for four in terms of helping to sell the companies where he held executive roles. As we noted three and a half years ago, when we first opined that Chordiant probably wasn’t a stand-alone vendor, Springsteel had seen a trio of his previous companies get gobbled up.

Bids for Chordiant

Date Suitor Offer Equity value EV/TTM sales multiple Status
January 8, 2010 CDC Software $3.46 per share $105m 0.7x Aborted
March 15, 2010 Pegasystems $5 per share $161.5 1.4x Closing in Q2

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase

A short-lived bid for Chordiant

Contact: Brenon Daly

In many ways, CDC Software’s unsolicited bid for Chordiant Software was over before it even began. As it was, the end became official late Thursday, as CDC Software pulled its $105m cash-and-stock offer for the money-losing CRM vendor just a week after floating it. It was clear that the hastily assembled ‘proactive offer’ (as CDC Software referred to it) was never going to get very far with Chordiant. Shares of the company spent virtually all summer above CDC Software’s bid of $3.46, which reflected a scant 14% premium over the closing of Chordiant shares in the previous session.

Chordiant, advised by Morgan Stanley, brushed aside CDC Software’s proposal with the ever-popular dismissal that the bid ‘significantly undervalues’ the company. (CDC Software didn’t retain an adviser, we understand.) Chordiant’s rebuff, combined with the poison pill it has in place, effectively killed the deal. CDC Software pretty much acknowledged that earlier this week when it announced that it intended to unwind its tiny 1.3% stake in Chordiant, which totaled just less than 400,000 shares. Incidentally, speaking of shares, although Chordiant stock dipped a bit when CDC Software pulled its offer, it was still closed above the bid price on Friday.

Chordiant: hunter turns hunted

Contact: Brenon Daly

Just a month ago, Chordiant Software was a hunter. Now it’s the hunted. The call-center software vendor attracted an unsolicited – and rather unsatisfying – offer from CDC Software earlier this week. The unusual twist is just the latest development in the already unusual process around the sale of fellow software company Kana Software. Recall that Chordiant, after failing to land Kana, took to sniping at the deal as an activist shareholder. None of that had any impact, as the sale of Kana to midmarket buyout firm Accel-KKR closed in late December.

Chordiant’s unsuccessful bid for Kana came up in CDC’s rationale for making what it terms a ‘proactive’ offer for Chordiant, with acquisitive CDC saying the bid was partly driven by Chordiant’s recognition that it was a ‘sub-scale’ software company. And recently, Chordiant has been falling even further away from being a software vendor of scale. In its most recent fiscal year, which ended September 30, overall revenue dropped by one-third. Granted, that fiscal year covered one of the most difficult economic periods since the Great Depression. But even in the current fiscal year, most Wall Street analysts don’t project that Chordiant will grow much, if at all.

So what does all that mean for Chordiant, which has remained silent to this point on CDC’s offer of $105m in cash and stock? We suspect it’ll probably play out similarly to CDC’s bid in 2006 for another CRM provider, Onyx Software. In that would-be acquisition, CDC was also an unwelcome bidder for Onyx, and the process unfolded fitfully. (Onyx ultimately sold to rollup Consona.) Not that we’re saying CDC will necessarily pull its bid for Chordiant, as it did for Onyx.

Instead, on the other side, we suspect Chordiant will try everything in its power not to end up inside CDC. One key defense: Chordiant has a poison pill in place that doesn’t expire until mid-2011. Also, Chordiant shares are currently changing hands above CDC’s offer of $3.46 for each of them. So if CDC, which is planning to hit the road next week to help sell Chordiant investors on the deal, really wants to add Chordiant’s front-office products to its existing back-office wares, we think it’ll have to present a topping bid. On a call discussing the proposed transaction Friday, CDC chief executive Peter Yip said he’s ‘open minded’ to raising the offer.

Kana: bidding while the cash burns

Contact: Brenon Daly

The progression from spurned bidder to shareholder activist isn’t all that unusual. But it is unusual when the party smarting is a publicly traded company, and decides to express its agitation through press releases. Yet, that’s exactly how Chordiant Software is venting its frustration over not landing Kana Software, with Chordiant telling the world earlier this week that it plans to vote its shares (amounting to 4% of the total equity outstanding) against the proposed sale of Kana’s operating business to midmarket buyout firm Accel-KKR. Chordiant followed that up on Thursday evening with a new cash-and-stock offer that values Kana higher than the buyout bid.

All of this comes just days before shareholders are slated to vote on Accel-KKR’s offer (the vote is scheduled for Wednesday). Kana’s board continues to recommend that shareholders back the planned transaction, which would effectively carve the business out of Kana and leave only a shell company in its place. We have noted that it’s an imperfect structure, but one that probably serves the fundamentally flawed firm reasonably well. Of course, some shareholders (including Chordiant) don’t agree, and should vote however they want. We would only note that while the two sides argue, Kana continues to burn cash. At the end of its most-recent quarter (ending September 30), the company was down to just $1.8m (it started the year with $7m). While the cash burn is nothing new for Kana, which has lost $4.3bn since its inception, it could become pressing: Kana noted in its proxy that it has a $5.4m debt payment coming due in 2010.