-by Thomas Rasmussen, Brenon Daly

Rather than hitting the public markets, Authoria has landed in a private equity (PE) portfolio, where it is slated to serve as the initial plank in a rollup in the fragmented human capital management (HCM) market. PE shop Bedford Funding picked up Authoria last week, after checking out the market for about a year and a half. (The guys behind Bedford know a thing or two about market consolidation. Before hanging out a shingle with their $400m buyout fund, the Bedford directors and principals served as executives at ERP rollup Geac, which gobbled up dozens of companies before getting swallowed in a $1bn LBO.)

Its experience with ERP consolidation will likely come in handy for Bedford because we have noted a number of times that the current HCM market – with more than 50 startups, along with three or four large vendors – bears more than a few similarities to the ERP market earlier this decade. The ranks of ERP companies were thinned quite a bit as both strategic and financial acquirers went on shopping sprees. (Oracle, Microsoft and Lawson have all inked significant ERP acquisitions this decade, while PE-backed Infor and Consona got their ERP rollups started in 2002 and 2003, respectively.)

We suspect a similar wave of consolidation may be heading to the HCM market, which covers all the stages of hiring, from pre-employment screening to succession planning. And it’s not a bad time to be a buyer, since HCM valuations are coming down. (Authoria sold for about 1.3x its trailing sales, just half the level Vurv Technology got in its $128.8m sale to Taleo earlier this year. Granted, that’s only one data point, but we’ve heard from sources that the markdown of multiples is being seen across the sector.) Given that, along with Bedford’s stash of cash, we expect the rollup to get rolling very soon. What might it be looking for? Maybe a small vendor that could bolster Authoria’s offering around the early part of the hiring process, such as talent acquisition or screening.

Significant HCM deals since 2007

Date Acquirer Target Deal value Target revenue
September 29, 2008 Bedford Funding Authoria $63.1m $50m*
September 16, 2008 Standard Life Vebnet $43.4m $11.4m
June 9, 2008 US Investigations Services HireRight $195m $72m
May 6, 2008 Taleo Vurv Technology $128.8m $45m*
December 21, 2007 Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Company Northgate Information Systems $1.2bn $897m
February 4, 2007 Infor Global Solutions Workbrain $197m $96.5m
March 23, 2007 Hellman & Friedman Kronos $1.8bn $599m

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase *Official 451 Group estimate

Hiring bankers

Once thought to be just part of the broader ERP offering, the so-called human capital management (HCM) market has come into its own in recent years. That has meant a few IPOs (going back to when there was a market for the offerings) as well as two or three HCM deals each year worth more than $100m. Recently, those twin threads came together in HireRight. The $195m acquisition of that company, which sells pre-employment screening software, closed earlier this month, almost exactly a year after the company went public.

In addition to the acquisition of HireRight by a private company serving the US government, we also noted one of the largest deals for market consolidation earlier this summer when Taleo spent $129m for longtime recruiting software rival Vurv Technology. (As opposed to consolidation, earlier HCM deals were typically done as a way for the acquirer to get into new markets or expand its product portfolio, such as outsourcing giant ADP spending an estimated $160m two years ago for Employease, an on-demand HCM vendor focused on the midmarket.)

So what does HCM deal flow look like for the rest of the year? Salary.com, which picked up a small British firm on Tuesday, has indicated that it plans to ink another deal or two before the year is out. Salary.com went public last year and has done two deals since then, including this week’s $5m purchase of InfoBasis.

More intriguing, however, is the rumor we heard from two market sources that PreVisor, a PE-backed HCM vendor selling employee screening and testing software, is looking to sell. The company was formed in August 2005 through the combination of three companies, and it has done a handful of acquisitions since then. There is no initial word on who might be bidding on PreVisor, which is owned by Veronis Suhler Stevenson.

HCM deal flow

Period Deal volume Deal value
Jan.-Aug. 2006 45 $617m
Jan.-Aug. 2007 35 $2bn
Jan.-Aug. 2008 26 $511m

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase