Corel erases iGrafx from its portfolio

Contact: Brenon Daly

A decade after picking up iGrafx, the private equity-backed Corel firm has divested the business process management (BPM) software company to newly formed buyout shop The Limerock Group. The move should allow new focus and resources for iGrafx, which was always an odd fit inside Corel. For its part, iGrafx sold almost entirely to enterprises, while Corel is known as a home for many faded, second-rate consumer brands, such as WordPerfect and PaintShop.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the iGrafx business suffered from a bit of neglect inside Corel. At one point, we understand the business was generating about $20m in sales, although it is probably only running at about half that level now. One area that iGrafx will undoubtedly look to expand is around consulting and other services that tend to play a not-insignificant part of BPM deployments. IGrafx may look to build that up through internal development, or the newly capitalized company could tuck-in a small consulting shop.

The move by Limerock, a firm founded by the team that built and eventually sold NetQoS for $200m, comes after a number of big-name buyers have inked BPM deals of their own over the past two years. (Limerock was advised by Northside Advisors, while Pagemill Partners worked the other side.) Significant acquirers that have bought their way into the market since mid-2009 include IBM, Software AG, Progress Software and Open Text. Valuations for these BPM deals has ranged from roughly 1x sales to almost 6x sales. Given iGrafx’s slumping sales and its awkward fit inside Corel, we suspect the business would have likely traded at the low end of that range.

Heading in and out at Vector

Contact: Brenon Daly

Some eight months after the opening bid for RAE Systems was announced, it looks like Vector Capital continues to have the inside track in taking private the maker of gas detection monitors. The San Francisco-based buyout firm earlier this week raised its offer for RAE Systems to $2 per share, or roughly $120m. That marks the third time that Vector has bumped its bid in its competition with original bidder Battery Ventures.

Vector’s current offer adds some $25m to Battery’s initial price, and is more than twice the level where RAE Systems shares traded over the year leading up to the first announcement last September. Perhaps most crucially, RAE Systems executives, who own roughly 31% of outstanding shares, have thrown their support behind Vector by giving up shares for no consideration as well as rolling over a large portion of their equity holdings.

While Vector works to add RAE Systems to its portfolio, we understand that it may be looking to free up a spot there as well. Several market sources have indicated that Vector has retained Jefferies & Company to advise it on a possible sale of Corel. Running at more than $200m in sales, Corel has a number of products for graphics design, as well as WordPerfect and WinDVD, among other titles.

Vector has owned Corel since 2003, though it did sell a bit of the software company to the public in 2006 before buying back that chunk three years later. Given that Corel is a fairly large portfolio of mostly mature businesses, we suspect that the most likely buyer would be a fellow PE shop. However, the process is still in its early days, according to a source.

Corel: ‘What a turkey’

Contact: Brenon Daly

As many of us get ready to sit down with friends and family for our annual Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, our thoughts inescapably turn to poultry. When we look around at some of the deals out there right now, our thoughts also turn to poultry. For instance, whenever Corel comes up, we can’t help but think to ourselves, ‘What a turkey.’

By ‘turkey,’ we don’t just mean that Corel has been a second-rate software company and an even worse investment. (Although both are certainly true. Corel shares have never traded above the price at which they were spun off in mid-2006, and currently change hands at just one-quarter of that level.) But we also mean that since the grab-bag software vendor went private in mid-2003 with Vector Capital, Corel equity has been carved up like a Thanksgiving turkey. And now there’s a fight brewing over one of the drumsticks.

As we’ve chronicled in the past, Vector has been angling to repurchase the chunk of Corel that it spun to the public three-and-a-half years ago. Vector recently offered to repurchase the one-third of Corel shares that it doesn’t own at $4 each. While that was a bit higher than it initially offered in late October, the bid is substantially below its offer of $11 per share back in March 2008.

Vector’s effort received a new urgency this week when Corel warned that it runs the risk of falling below certain covenants and defaulting on its loans unless the sale to Vector goes through. The deadline for being in line with the covenants is November 30. The buyout shop contends, among other things, that the costs of Corel being a public company get in the way of making the necessary investments to keep the 24-year-old firm competitive. Corel’s investors aren’t necessarily buying that, at least not at the price offered by Vector. Corel shares have traded above the $4 bid for the past two weeks.

Vector’s velocity

With all the bidding and buying, it’s hard to keep straight what’s going on with Vector Capital. Already this year, the tech buyout shop has made several offers for down-and-out companies. It even got one through last week, as portfolio company Tripos announced a $57m purchase of drug development software maker Pharsight. The deal is expected to close by year-end.

However, Vector’s other recent M&A moves, most of them coming as unsolicited offers, haven’t been as straight-forward. It made an on-again, off-again run this summer at Corel, a half-decade after taking it private and two years after spinning it back onto the public market. (We would note that Corel shares have never traded as high as they did at the IPO in spring 2006.) Vector also bid for troubled content management vendor Captaris, but lost out to the acquisition-hungry Open Text. The $131m deal is expected to close before year-end, and Captaris shares are trading as if the transaction will go through.

In addition to those mixed efforts, Vector has made an unusual two-pronged approach at Israeli security company Aladdin Knowledge Systems. First, it offered to buy Aladdin outright, offering $13 for each share it doesn’t already own. (Vector is Aladdin’s largest shareholder, holding some 14% of the company.) Then, Vector offered to pick up just Aladdin’s digital rights management (DRM) business. The DRM business is the most-attractive unit at Aladdin, and would fit nicely with SafeNet, which Vector took private last year. Perhaps not surprisingly, Aladdin has said ‘thanks, but no thanks’ to both unsolicited options, and has retained Credit Suisse to advise it.

Selected Vector transactions

Year Company Price Market
2008 Precise Software (Symantec) Not disclosed Application performance management
2007 SafeNet $634m Encryption security
2006 Tripos $26m Pharmaceutical industry software
2003 Corel $122m Desktop productivity software

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase