Echoes of Oracle in Infor’s reach for Lawson

Contact: Brenon Daly

Now that Lawson Software has agreed to a sale to Infor Global Solutions, it’s perhaps worth speculating about just how much Charles Philips learned about the art of M&A during his previous job. Philips, of course, currently serves as CEO of Infor after seven years at Oracle, which has a reputation as a (how to say it?) ‘disciplined buyer.’ The connotations of that description probably depend on which side of the table you sit on. At Oracle, the term is a compliment meaning ‘fiscally responsible’ while the view from the buyside might hold that they are ‘cheap.’

In any case, Philips’ proposed ‘take-under’ of Lawson, which got formalized on Tuesday, carries many of the hallmarks that some folks associate with deals done by his former shop: quick process, relatively low valuation and a confident ‘one-and-done’ offer. Recall that it was just six weeks ago that Infor, which is backed by Golden Gate Capital, lobbed an unsolicited offer of $11.25 per share for Lawson. And even though shares of the old-line ERP vendor traded $1 above the bid in recent weeks, Infor stuck to its original offer.

Provided the deal gets done, the acquisition marks a new era at Infor, with a new chief executive setting its course. Before Philips joined Infor last October, the consolidator had dramatically slowed its dealmaking, announcing just three deals over the previous four years. (And the recent purchases were much smaller ones at that.) Lawson stands as Infor’s largest-ever acquisition, one that will boost the company’s revenue by roughly one-third to some $3bn. Just the sort of move Oracle might have made when Philips was there.

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.

Lawson ‘Infor-med’ of unsolicited offer

Contact: Brenon Daly

In the middle of last year, we penciled out a takeout scenario for Lawson Software that gave the old-line maker of ERP software an equity value of about $1.7bn. Turns out we were off by just $100m. On Friday, the acquisitive, private equity-backed rollup machine Infor Global Solutions floated an unsolicited $1.8bn offer for Lawson. The target said only that it has retained Barclays Capital to advise it on the process.

We thought Lawson might find itself in play because activist shareholder Carl Icahn had taken about 10% of the company’s stock and started talking about ‘maximizing shareholder value.’ (Some of that has already showed up in Lawson’s recent stock chart. When Icahn revealed his stake last summer, shares were changing hands at about $8 each, compared to the $11.25 offer from Infor. We would note that the stock traded through the bid on Monday, hitting a high of $12.87 before settling down at about $12.25 in afternoon activity.)

In many ways, Lawson presents something of an easy target for Icahn and the would-be buyout group. License revenue has slipped in both of the company’s quarters so far this fiscal year. Meanwhile, it has been deemphasizing its consulting services, which is still one-third of total sales. So that business is dropping, too. The only growth has been seen in Lawson’s maintenance revenue. That business runs at an 80% gross margin, one of the main reasons Lawson generates so much cash.

Over the past four quarters, Lawson has thrown off some $116m of EBITDA on $745m of sales, a healthy 16% margin. If we put that trailing performance against Infor’s bid, Lawson is garnering a not-too-shabby multiple: 2.4 times sales and 15x EBITDA. Infor’s bid represents the highest price for Lawson stock in nine years, and would be CEO Charles Philips’ first deal since coming over from Oracle last October.


-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