Shopping hard in the City of Light

Contact:  Brenon Daly

On its visit to Paris, Francisco Partners brought home more than just a miniature souvenir Eiffel Tower. In the past week, the buyout shop has announced not one but two $100m deals struck in the French capital. Francisco’s unusual double dip comes at a time when the dollar, which had been at multiyear highs against the euro earlier in 2010, has slumped in recent weeks. (We recently looked at the trade winds blowing across the Atlantic.)

For Francisco, the transactions would help restock its European holdings. The buyout shop sold Swiss chip company Numonyx to Micron Technology for $1.3bn in May. In its first deal, Francisco put forward a $100m offer for the Grass Valley Broadcast business, which is being divested by Paris-based Technicolor. (The actual Grass Valley Broadcast business operates in central California, an ocean away from The City of Light.) In probably the more interesting move, Francisco picked up a majority stake in on-demand email marketing company Emailvision. The purchase gave Emailvision, which was advised by Pacific Crest Securities, a fully diluted equity value of about $109m.

Deltek deal shows Atlantic trade winds are blowing

Contact: Brenon Daly

As the hackneyed old phrase goes, there is opportunity in crisis. We were musing on that as we watched the euro plummet at the end of last week to a four-year low against the dollar. With countries such as Greece, Portugal and, most recently, Hungary unable or unwilling to run balanced books, much of the continent looks shaky. Reflecting the worries caused by the ballooning debt in many countries, the euro has shed 15% of its value compared to the US greenback.

While it is undoubtedly a tough time for many of our cousin countries across the Atlantic, some US companies might be having a different take on this period of European malaise: it’s a great time to do some opportunistic shopping. For starters, US buyers are getting a nice little discount thanks to the dollar. If, for instance, a US-based company was eyeing an acquisition in Europe that would have run it $150m at the start of the year, the current cost is less than $130m. And don’t forget that a lot of US companies have a lot of wampum sitting over in Europe that can’t be brought home without a heavy tax hit.

There’s also the fact that the recession hasn’t actually ended for many of the European companies, at least not based on their stock prices. Consider the smartly frugal bit of shopping that Deltek Systems did late last week. The project management software vendor had been looking to expand across the Atlantic, and found a handy bargain in picking up Danish ERP provider Maconomy. (Deltek was advised by Arma Partners.)

In its largest acquisition ever, Deltek will pay around $72m in cash for Maconomy. Even though the premium is substantial (Deltek’s offer is more than triple where Maconomy shares traded a year ago, and twice the price of the stock at the beginning of the year), the valuation of the target is actually lower than that of the acquirer. On an enterprise value basis, Deltek itself trades at about 2.1 times trailing sales, while it is paying just 1.5 times trailing sales for Maconomy. (And again, the valuation of the Danish software firm includes a generous premium.) Bargains like that may well get the trade winds blowing again across the Atlantic.

Inconsistent currencies

Throughout much of the year, the US dollar looked like lightweight paper. A buck basically bought you a loonie (as our northern neighbors call their dollar), and foreign exchange traders were heard shouting jokes about ‘the American peso.’ We noted the weak US dollar as one of the key reasons that total M&A spending by US acquirers dropped by about two-thirds from mid-2007 to mid-2008, while European shopping jumped by one-third (see report).

In the wake of the global financial crisis, however, the dollar has strengthened. To get a sense of that, consider the relative value of the US dollar when two Silicon Valley-based multinational tech giants went on shopping trips to Australia this year. Back when Hewlett-Packard made its play for records management vendor Tower Software in late March, the US dollar bought about A$1.10. A few days ago, when Oracle reached for Haley Limited, $1 bought A$1.60. That’s a lot more buying power for the once-humbled US dollar.