A scratch-and-dent sale for Vignette?

With its shares currently bumping their lowest level in three years, Vignette has done little to help itself. In its second-quarter report Thursday, the dismaying decline in sales of its software continued. In the first half of 2008, Vignette has recorded just $20m in license sales, down from $30m in the first half of 2007. By way of understatement, CEO Mike Aviles acknowledged that Vignette’s software sales ‘are not where we want them’ but added additional marketing spending and recent changes in the company’s sales executives should help.

We’re not so sure those moves will help the struggling company. Vignette already spends one-third of its revenue on sales and marketing, and indicated that it may bump up that level for the rest of the year. (Not that the company has much insight into how business will run in the coming months. Consider its laughably broad guidance to Wall Street on its loss of the current quarter: It said it’ll lose something between 7 and 21 cents per share in the third quarter, representing a net loss in the period of $1.7-5m.)

One of the main reasons Vignette continues to struggle is that it’s going against some tough competition, including Oracle and IBM, as well as stand-alone content management players. For that reason, we could certainly see Vignette benefiting from being part of a larger company. And indeed, we’ve heard from two sources that the ongoing auction for Vignette has narrowed to two final parties. While we don’t know the specific names, we suspect Hewlett-Packard may well be one. (Don’t forget that the head of HP’s software division, Tom Hogan, knows Vignette intimately. Hogan served as CEO of the company from 2002-2006 before moving to HP.)

And the price for Vignette certainly isn’t prohibitive. With the stock having slid 40% over the past year, Vignette currently garners a market capitalization of just $280m. However, the debt-free company also has $90m in cash and equivalents in its bank account, lowering the net cost of Vignette to just $190m. That’s about the same level of sales it is likely to report this year. In the past, shoppers have paid 2.6 to 2.9 times enterprise value/revenue for their purchases of other publicly traded content management vendors. However, we doubt Vignette – with its slumping software sales and spendthrift marketing plans – will command that kind of multiple.

Selected significant content management deals

Date Acquirer Target Price EV/sales multiple
August 2006 IBM FileNet $1.6bn 2.6x
November 2006 Oracle Stellent $440m 2.9x

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase