Multiples match on Lawson and Epicor

Contact: Brenon Daly

If nothing else, we now know the clearing price for ‘vintage’ ERP companies. (Or more accurately said, we know the proposed clearing price.) That’s at least one conclusion we can draw from the highly unusual situation where there are two deals going on simultaneously for two of the industry’s larger players, Epicor Software and Lawson Software. The two planned acquisitions – representing, collectively, $2.8bn of spending – line up almost exactly in several key metrics.

The numbers: the equity value of Apax’s offer for Epicor is $976m, with an enterprise value (EV) of $1.1bn. On an EV basis, that works out to about 2.5 times trailing sales and roughly 5x maintenance revenue. That mirrors very closely the takeout valuation that Lawson received in an unsolicited bid last month from PE-backed Infor Global Solutions, which it is currently reviewing. Lawson is being valued at 2.4x trailing sales and about 4.5x maintenance revenue. Even on an EV/EBITDA basis, the valuations are not all that dissimilar: Epicor garnering a 20.5x valuation, compared to Lawson’s 15.4x.

Apax goes double or nothing in big software bet

Contact: Brenon Daly

Apax Partners is going double or nothing in the latest addition to its software portfolio. The buyout firm plans to spend a total of $2bn to put together a pair of old-line ERP vendors, Epicor Software and Activant Solutions. And it is very much a ‘paired’ deal. In fact, according to terms, Apax closing its Activant purchase is a precondition of its planned take-private of Epicor.

That said, neither Apax’s purchase of Activant from its current private equity (PE) owners nor the buyout of Epicor should present much of a problem to get closed this quarter. But it does underline the necessity of cost ‘synergies’ in a deal (or in this case, two) for a mature company. (We noted that fact in the very similar proposed take-private of Lawson Software.)

If the double-barreled deals go through (as we assume they will), it would mark the end of a two-and-a-half-year effort by Elliott Associates to get Epicor sold. The hedge fund accumulated a 10% stake in Epicor in 2008 and then floated an offer of $9.50 for each remaining share of Epicor. It later trimmed that to $7.50 per share as the software company’s outlook deteriorated. (Epicor’s total revenue dropped 16% in 2009, and sales in 2011, while expected to increase, are still forecasted to come in below the level of 2008.) Apax is set to pay $12.50 per share for Epicor – an offer that Elliot has signed off on.

Epicor: Thanks, but no thanks

Epicor has shot down an unsolicited offer from a hedge fund, confirming a move that the market had been expecting in the wake of the credit market collapse. The ERP vendor, which is being advised by UBS, told Elliott Associates that it wasn’t interested in the two-week-old bid of $9.50 for each share of Epicor. Although shares initially approached the $9 level on the news, the stock bottomed out at $6 last week. The gigantic spread reflects widespread doubt that Elliott and Epicor would strike a deal. With about 59 million shares outstanding, Elliott’s offer values Epicor’s equity at about $566m. In addition, Epicor holds $132m in cash and $380m in debt, giving the proposed deal an enterprise value of $814m. Elliott owns 12% of Epicor. We noted even before the credit bubble burst that Elliott might have a tough sell with Epicor.

Elliott elbows Epicor

Well, that didn’t take long. Just two days after we noted who won’t be bidding for Epicor, Elliott Associates tossed an offer of $9.50 per share for Epicor. The bid comes just two months after the hedge fund disclosed a large stake and began stirring for a sale of the old-line ERP vendor. With about 59m shares outstanding, Elliott’s offer values Epicor’s equity at about $566m. Additionally, Epicor holds $132m in cash and $380m in debt, giving the proposed deal an enterprise value of $814m. Epicor, which has seen substantial executive turnover this year, has struggled to record growth recently. However, the business has two attractive assets: a healthy maintenance revenue stream and solid cash-flow generation. Epicor shares closed Wednesday at $8.93, their highest level since mid-April.

Who’s not shopping for Epicor

In virtually any other credit market, we’d be tempted to hold out old-line ERP vendor Epicor Software as an exemplary buyout candidate. The company will do about $530m in revenue this year, with $200m of that coming in the easily bankable form of software maintenance fees. (And the company is hardly expensive, with an enterprise value that’s just 3.7x this year’s maintenance revenue.) Moreover, it’ll throw off some $65m in cash flow in 2008 to help cover a hypothetical leveraged buyout.

But as we said, these are not normal days for debt. So in our report last week on an activist hedge fund pushing the company to pursue ‘strategic alternatives,’ we focused on the strategic buyers that might be interested in – and could afford – Epicor. They are, in order of likelihood: Microsoft, Oracle and SAP. Truth be told, though, none of those acquirers seems likely. And while we’re scratching potential suitors for Epicor, we can go ahead and erase M2 Technology Partners.

The buyout firm, which launched in mid-June with backing from Accel-KKR, is headed by Mark Duffell and Michael Piraino, who served as Epicor’s COO and CFO, respectively, until earlier this year. We understand that M2 is exploring other opportunities in the business applications market, and may well have its inaugural investment signed, sealed and delivered by the end of the year. It won’t be Duffell and Piraino’s old shop Epicor, but just think how much time they’d save on due diligence if it were.

Significant ERP deals

Date Acquirer Target Price
December 2000 Microsoft Great Plains Software $1.1bn
May 2002 Microsoft Navision $1.3bn
June 2003 PeopleSoft JD Edwards $1.75bn
December 2004 Oracle PeopleSoft $10.46bn
June 2005 Lawson Intentia International $449m
November 2005 Golden Gate Capital Geac Computer $1bn
January 2008 Unit 4 Agresso Group Coda $314m

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase