Synopsys heats up EDA M&A with Magma buy

Contact: Thejeswi Venkatesh

After sitting out of the market for the first eight months of the year, Synopsys is suddenly on a buying spree. Having snapped up two smaller players in as many months, the largest electronic design automation (EDA) player has announced a definitive agreement to buy Magma Design Automation for $7.35 per share in cash, representing an enterprise value of $507m.

Size matters in the mature EDA market, and Synopsys claims that the combined company will be better able to invest more in R&D and further ‘technology acceleration’ in areas such as mobile chips. However, there are concerns about whether the deal will pass regulatory muster, given substantial overlap in product offerings. That explains the asymmetry in breakup fees – Synopsys will pay $13m more if it fails to close the acquisition than what Magma would pay if it backs out ($30m vs. $17m).

The deal values Magma at a trailing sales multiple of 3.6, based on reported revenue of $142m. That’s a handsome valuation compared to the 2.2x multiple that Mentor Graphics, the next-largest player after Magma, was offered by Carl Icahn in his unsolicited bid earlier this year. Synopsys will use existing cash ($230m of which is onshore) and debt to finance the deal. Qatalyst Partners banked Magma. We’ll have a full report on this deal in tonight’s Daily 451.

Mentor Graphics’ ‘marginalized’ size

Contact: Brenon Daly

In knocking down Carl Icahn’s unsolicited bid, Mentor Graphics cited the regulatory difficulties that would likely accompany a combination with either of the two other large vendors of electronic design automation (EDA) software. However, the relative financial performances of the trio show the advantages of consolidation. As is true for most mature businesses, scale matters.

For the most part, the EDA industry has narrowed to three main suppliers: Mentor, Cadence Design Systems and Synopsys. Mentor and Cadence are basically the same size at slightly more than $900m in annual sales, while Synopsys is about half again as large. (It finished fiscal 2010 at $1.38bn in revenue).

Far more important than just top line, however, is the fact that Synopsys has used its size to run more efficiently – far more efficiently – than its smaller rivals, at least when measured by operating margin. (Cadence doesn’t figure into this discussion because it has posted operating losses in each of the past three years.) In Mentor’s recently closed fiscal year, it posted a 6% operating margin – its highest level in three years. That’s all well and good, but we should note that the level is just half the margin that Synopsys currently runs at.

Mentor Graphic’s looming showdown

Contact: Brenon Daly

Lost in the din surrounding Carl Icahn’s recent effort to take out Lawson Software is the fact that the activist shareholder is already much further along with his stirrings against another target, Mentor Graphics. In less than two months, the electronic design automation company is slated to hold its annual shareholder meeting – a get-together where Icahn hopes to replace several board members as a way to spur a sale of the company. It’s shaping up to be a real showdown.

Last month, Icahn floated an offer of $17 for each of the roughly 112 million shares of Mentor, giving the unsolicited bid an equity value of $1.9bn. (Icahn already owns 15% of Mentor, which is nearly four times more than all the company’s directors and executives hold collectively.) Icahn has been joined in his efforts – in practice, if not officially – by another hedge fund, Casablanca Capital, which has a 5% stake in Mentor.

Mentor has told its shareholders to stick with its current board and strategy. In the proxy filed Tuesday, the company takes a swipe at Icahn’s efforts, saying his selections to the board lack ‘the collective knowledge, skill and experience’ of the current directors. Recall that Mentor’s ‘just say no’ defense successfully stymied an unsolicited bid from rival Cadence Design Systems nearly three years ago. Cadence pulled its offer just two months after launching it, but not before blasting Mentor for refusing to even open its books to a prospective buyer. We doubt that Icahn will go away as quickly and quietly if Mentor continues to stiff-arm him

Cadence ends hostilities

Cadence Design Systems unexpectedly yanked its two-month-old unsolicited bid for rival Mentor Graphics Friday, scrapping a deal that would have given the chip design industry some much-needed consolidation. In pulling the $1.6bn all-cash offer, Cadence blasted Mentor for refusing to open its books. According to Cadence, that prevented it from lining up lenders to cover the $1.1bn it was planning to borrow for the deal. Mentor disputed that. It added regulatory review would have likely dragged out the process. Whatever the case, Mentor investors didn’t stick around. Mentor stock plummeted 26% to close at $10.33, compared to Cadence’s offer of $16 per share. For its part, Cadence stock rose 7%. Still both stocks are below the level they were when the dance began.

A chippy deal

After more than two months of discussions, Cadence Design Systems put a bear hug on Mentor Graphics on Tuesday, June 17, offering roughly $1.6bn in cash for the smaller chip-design vendor. Under terms of the unsolicited offer, Cadence would pay $16 for each of the roughly 91 million Cadence shares. Cadence said it would cover roughly one-third of the purchase with its available cash, while borrowing an additional $1.1bn. Deutsche Bank Securities is advising Cadence.

The deal – if it gets approved by Mentor shareholders and survives regulatory review – would combine two of the three largest electronic design automation (EDA) companies. Cadence and rival Synopsys are roughly the same size at about $1.6bn in sales last year, which is twice as big as Mentor. (Various pairings of these three players have been discussed over the years.) However, Mentor said later Tuesday that it was not interested in a pairing with Cadence.

Cadence’s approach, which we would characterize as ‘opportunistic consolidation,’ continues a recent trend toward unsolicited offers for underperforming rivals made in a very public way. (Although Mentor has recently trimmed its rather bloated cost structure, the company’s operating margins are less than half the level at Cadence.) The outcome of these ‘bear hugs’ has spanned the possibilities: Iomega recently accepted a raised offer from EMC; Microsoft walked away from its unsolicited bid for Yahoo; and Electronic Arts took its bid for Take-Two Interactive hostile.

EDA deal flow, by year

Year Deal volume Deal value
2005 5 $298m
2006 6 $888m
2007 13 $225m
YTD 2008* 11 $2.7bn

*includes announced Cadence-Mentor transaction. Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase