NCR rings up purchase of Radiant Systems

Contact: Brenon Daly

In yet another signal that the credit market has reopened for business, NCR has announced that it will issue $1.1bn in debt to cover the cost of its largest-ever acquisition. The company, which has relied on M&A to expand beyond selling the cash registers that it invented in 1884, said late Monday that it will pay $1.2bn for Radiant Systems. The purchase will add Radiant Systems’ point-of-sale products focused on the hospitality and restaurant industries to NCR’s portfolio, as well as boost the acquirer’s growth rate and margins, according to post-closing projections.

NCR will hand over $28 for each share of Radiant Systems. That represents a roughly 28% premium on Radiant Systems’ previous closing price and twice the level of the stock a year ago. The offer values Radiant Systems at about 3.4 times trailing sales of $354m.

The debt-funded purchase of Radiant Systems marks the latest in a series of transactions that have shaped NCR’s long corporate history, which included an IPO back in 1926. More recently, NCR was acquired by AT&T in 1991, the same year that NCR added data-warehousing pioneer Teradata. AT&T then spun off NCR in 1997, and a decade later, free-standing NCR spun off Teradata. For those keeping score, Teradata now has a $10bn market capitalization, three times NCR’s current valuation.

An exclusive ‘club’

Contact: Brenon Daly

The price of admission for a ‘club deal’ just got a bit more expensive. The trio of private equity (PE) firms bidding for Irish e-learning firm SkillSoft recently bumped their offer to $1.2bn, up from the original $1.1bn bid in mid-February. The buyout firms teaming up to take SkillSoft private are Berkshire Partners, Bain Capital and Advent International. According to terms, the trio will be using equity to cover slightly more than half of the purchase price ($680m, or 57% of the $1.2bn transaction).

The planned leveraged buyout (LBO) of SkillSoft is one of only three take-privates by a PE club since January 1, 2008 valued at more than $1bn. (That doesn’t include syndicate purchases of divestitures or other parts of companies, such as the carve-out of Skype from eBay by a quartet of firms.) When credit was flowing freely in 2006-07, multibillion-dollar LBOs were plentiful, which was a primary reason that overall spending on tech M&A in each of those years topped $400bn. In both 2006 and 2007, PE shops accounted for more than 20% of all money spent on tech deals.

The topping bid for SkillSoft comes at a time when overall PE spending is dropping to some of the lowest levels since it began to recover last year. After averaging about $9bn in both of the quarters since the US recession officially ended, the value of deals by PE firms fell to just $6bn in the recently completed first quarter. Incidentally, the decline of PE deal value matched almost exactly the drop-off in overall first-quarter tech M&A spending, which came in at the low end of the range that we’ve tallied in recent quarters. Click here to see our full report on first-quarter M&A.

PE activity

Period Deal volume Deal value
Q1 2010 63 $6bn
Q4 2009 92 $9.9bn
Q3 2009 83 $8bn
Q2 2009 76 $2.8bn
Q1 2009 46 $250m

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase

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.

JDA: No really, we can pay for it

In a sign of how rocky the credit market has become, JDA Software Group took the highly unusual step Tuesday afternoon of issuing a press release to confirm that it has the financing to pull off its planned $461m acquisition of supply chain management vendor i2 Technologies. Among other moves, JDA added Wells Fargo to the loan syndicate. According to terms of the early August deal, JDA was planning to borrow up to $450m from Credit Suisse and Wachovia. As Wachovia reeled due to its own risky loan portfolio, market participants began questioning Wachovia’s ability to help finance JDA’s purchase. That uncertainty knocked i2 shares, which were trading near JDA’s bid of $14.86 earlier this month, to as low as $11.50 on Wednesday. The stock snapped back after JDA’s release hit the wire, rebounding to about $13.50 on Tuesday afternoon. (As an aside, we wonder how many arbs got crushed in that swing.) i2 shareholders are slated to vote on JDA proposed deal on Nov. 6.

Microsoft’s ‘paper’ trail leads to Citrix?

Shares of Citrix jumped 5% Wednesday on reheated rumors that Microsoft may be bidding for its longtime partner. Volume in Citrix shares was about 50% heavier than average. One source indicated that Microsoft would be paying $36 for each Citrix share, which is essentially where Citrix started the year.

This rumor, of course, has made the rounds before. We noted in April that although both IBM and Cisco were rumored suitors for Citrix, our top pick for the acquirer would be Microsoft. (The two companies have been close for years, with Citrix being one of just two companies with access to the Windows source code.) All that said, however, we don’t see Microsoft buying Citrix. (How would Microsoft handle the fact that XenSource, which is arguably Citrix’s most-coveted asset, is built on open source software?)

As to why the rumor resurfaced Wednesday, we might trace that back to a misread of Microsoft’s announcement the day before that it was planning to sell some $2bn of commercial paper. The thinking is that Redmond might be prepping an even larger offering. But looking at Microsoft’s current balance sheet, it could buy Citrix four times over with the cash and short-term investments it already holds.

Buyout blues

Three years ago, the buyout barons shook up the technology M&A market with the $11.3bn LBO of services giant SunGard. At the time it was the largest tech buyout, equaling basically half the money spent on all LBOs in the previous year. Even as financial acquirers became more active – increasingly their spending sevenfold from 2004-07 – the SunGard buyout stood as the third-largest tech LBO.

SunGard’s brozen-medal placing seemed unlikely to hold at this time last year. There seemed to be a new multibillion-dollar LBO every week, with the targets getting bigger in every transaction. (Remember the half-serious speculation that Microsoft could be taken private?) All that changed in late summer, when debt became more expensive, sending the LBO market into a funk from which it hasn’t recovered. So far this year, LBO firms have announced 49 deals worth $10.3bn, down from 59 deals worth $97bn in the same period last year, according to The 451 Group’s M&A KnowledgeBase.

The change in climate isn’t lost on the financial deal-makers. Underscoring the difficulties in the current credit market, SilverLake’s Alan Austin said at the recent IBF VC Investing Conference in San Francisco that his firm couldn’t pull off a deal like SunGard right now. The buyout firm put in $3bn of equity and borrowed the remaining $8bn. ‘We could never do something like that today – never mind the terms (of the debt)’, Austin said at the conference.

PE deal flow

Period Deal volume Deal value
Jan. – June 2008 51 $11bn
Jan. – June 2007 59 $97bn
Jan. – June 2006  35  $17bn
Jan. – June 2005 25 $24bn

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase