Dassault Systemes bulks up through an old friend

Contact: John Abbott

Dassault Systèmes’ $600m purchase of IBM’s CATIA product lifecycle management (PLM) sales and client support operations on Tuesday is the latest twist in a complex, 30-year relationship between the two companies. Dassault, founded in 1981, inherited the rights to CATIA, one of the first 3-D computer-aided design (CAD) packages, from its aerospace parent Avions Marcel Dassault (now Dassault Aviation). Then in 1992, Dassault bought the rights to the other pioneering CAD package, CADAM, from IBM. It set about combining the two, and continued to jointly market the product set with Big Blue.

Now it seems that Dassault wants more control over its business. Through the deal, which is expected to close during the first half of next year, it gains access to 1,000 more clients and around $700m in annual sales. The transaction is expected to boost earnings in the first year. (Dassault plans to speak more about the financial impact of the deal during its third-quarter earnings call on Thursday.)

The partnership will continue with IBM in the services role, but should enable Dassault to simplify its contracts with very large customers such as Ford Motor and Boeing, which until now had to negotiate with both vendors. The scope of CAD software has evolved over the years from core engineering and complex product design into collaborative PLM focused on business processes, workflows and the supply chain. However, Big Blue didn’t have the agreements in place to sell the full set of Dassault tools. The result was that more big firms were dealing directly with Dassault. A side effect is that both companies will be more able to work with other partners: Dassault with Hewlett-Packard, for instance, and IBM with other PLM providers such as Siemens PLM Software and PTC.

The deal is the biggest in Dassault’s history, though it has spent heavily in the past on industry consolidation, most notably through the acquisitions of MatrixOne (March 2006, $408m), ABAQUS (May 2005, $413m) and SolidWorks (June 1997, $310m). Other vendors have also been buying up big chunks of the PLM market. Siemens inked the sector’s largest deal in January 2007, spending $3.5bn on UGS, while Oracle handed over $495m for Agile Software in May 2007. The PLM shop that appears to be left behind is PTC, which despite spending more than $600m on 11 purchases of its own since 2004 is now much smaller than either Siemens or Dassault and is under pressure from moves into PLM by mainstream enterprise software houses such as Oracle and SAP. Several market sources indicated that PTC has retained Goldman Sachs to advise it on a possible sale.

What’s on NICE Systems’ shopping list?

Contact: Brenon Daly

After being out of the market for more than a year, NICE Systems is looking to do deals again. The Israeli company inked a pair of asset purchases in 2008, with a total bill just shy of $20m. Those pickups came after NICE made its largest acquisition to date, the $280m cash-and-stock purchase of Actimize. With no debt and some $530m in cash and equivalents, NICE certainly has the means to do deals. The firm didn’t offer a peak at its shopping list, but said Tuesday at the RBC Technology, Media and Communications Conference that it will be active.

As its most-significant acquisition, the addition of Actimize bolstered NICE’s analytics offering, helping to expand the number of applications the company sells. (Actimize has also thrived under NICE. We understand that the startup has doubled its revenue to $60m in the two years since NICE acquired it.) Founded in 1986, NICE sold recording technology for call centers for much of its corporate life. In the past year or so, it has expanded into additional applications, such as workforce management, customer feedback and governance, risk and compliance. Roughly three-quarters of NICE’s revenue comes from its enterprise business, with the rest coming from its security unit.

Of course, the market has been speculating on and off for many years about a large deal by NICE involving a combination with archrival Verint Systems. However, valuing any potential transaction remains a challenge because of Verint’s majority owner, Comverse Technology. (Yes, that’s the company that has been wracked by allegations of fraud and options backdating scandals, with its founder and former CEO living on the lam in Africa. The company’s financial statements are also woefully out of date.) We understand that Comverse retained a banker some time ago to help sell off some assets. If Comverse wanted to reheat that effort and shed Verint, we’re pretty sure that NICE would put aside historical rivalries and consider that consolidation play.

Preemptive consolidation in financial IT?

-Contact Thomas Rasmussen

With reports indicating that IBM has pulled its multibillion-dollar offer for Sun Microsystems, the second-largest deal of the year so far is the $2.9bn all-equity purchase of Metavante by Fidelity National Information Services (FIS) announced in early April. (Yesterday, Express Scripts announced that it will fork over $4.7bn for WellPoint’s NextRx subsidiaries.) In fact, we recently noted that the first quarter closed without a single transaction worth more than $1bn. It was the first time a quarter passed without a 10-digit deal since we began keeping records in January 2002. This transaction consolidates two active acquirers. Metavante and FIS have together inked more than 30 purchases over the past five years: FIS has completed 18 deals worth north of $7bn (excluding this pickup), while Metavante has closed 15 to the tune of about $1.4bn.

The combined FIS and Metavante will have revenue of $5.1bn, about $300m in cash after the transaction closes, and free cash flow of about $700m. However, though the management of the new company outlined its healthy cash flow as means for making further acquisitions, we don’t expect them to step immediately back into the market as the giants work on integrating the blockbuster deal. (We would note that both FIS and Metavante were out of the market in 2008.) Instead, we expect near-term consolidation to likely come from the firm’s two remaining large competitors Fiserv and First Data Corp, which Kohlberg Kravis Roberts took private for $30bn two years ago. Additionally, we could see Oracle and IBM using their vast cash reserves to buy their way into this sector. In fact, FIS and Metavante said in their conference call discussing their planned transaction that one of the reasons they were getting together was to stave off the expected competition from Oracle and Big Blue. So who might be of interest to any of these buyers? We suspect smaller players such as Jack Henry & Associates or even payments competitors TeleCommunication Systems and S1 Corp could well become targets.

Financial IT M&A by the now three largest buyers since 2002

Acquirer Number of deals Total deal value
FIS-Metavante 42 $12.7bn
First Data Corp 20 $9bn
Fiserv 28 $5.3bn

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase