Push-back on the markdown

Rather than the current M&A market being a place where buyers and sellers meet on more or less equal footing, current deals clearly show that acquirers have the upper hand (if you’ll forgive the mixed anatomical metaphor). We’ve already noted how some would-be buyers have pushed for ‘recalibrations’ in deal prices and, for the most part, have gotten these discounts.

However, one target isn’t just sitting by for a markdown. I2, which agreed to be acquired by JDA Software Group in mid-August, has told its bargain-minded buyer that it plans to hold to the original terms of the deal. Under those terms, i2’s common shareholders would pocket $14.86 for each share. (There are also payments to satisfy i2 convertible holders, giving the proposed transaction an enterprise value of $346m.)

I2 shares traded close to the bid up until Wednesday, when JDA told i2 it wanted the company to delay its shareholder vote. I2 went ahead and held the meeting as scheduled Thursday, with more than 80% of shareholders voting for the deal. The company says it has done everything it needed to do to close the deal and ‘expects’ JDA to do the same. The market doesn’t share that expectation. Instead, it anticipates that JDA will trim its bid. I2 shares dropped $4 on Wednesday and sank again on Thursday, closing at $9. That’s almost 40% below the original offer price. In case anyone is curious, terms call for a breakup fee of $15m or $20m, depending on the split.

Smoothing the spread

With the stock market in turmoil, more than a few deals have seen a gulf widen between the current price of a would-be target and its proposed takeout price. So the question becomes: How to smooth the spread? Well, two different approaches – with wildly different results – seem to support the idea of disclosure, with more being better. Wall Street, apparently, is a little skittish these days.

A month ago, JDA Software took the unusual step of issuing a press release to assure Wall Street that it can actually pay for its PE-style acquisition of i2. Originally, JDA was banking on Wachovia to help fund its purchase. But as that bank came undone, Wells Fargo stepped in to join Credit Suisse as the lenders to JDA. That deal, which was launched in mid-August, goes to i2 shareholders a week from Thursday. Meanwhile, i2 shares are currently changing hands at about $14, compared to JDA’s bid of $14.86.

Contrast that clarity with the cloudy situation surrounding Brocade Communications’ planned purchase of Foundry Networks. When Brocade unveiled its ‘Cisco-killer’ acquisition in July, it said it would pay $18.50 in cash plus a sliver of stock for each Foundry share. The networking equipment maker’s stock traded near the bid until a disastrous decision Friday to delay its shareholder vote on Brocade’s offer, citing ‘recent developments.’

While the company may have had its hands tied about what it could say about these ‘developments,’ the ominous move spooked the market. Concerns immediately arose about Brocade being able to pay for the $3bn acquisition, given the tight credit market, as well as the SAN vendor perhaps knocking down its offer price. Shares are now changing hands at $13.36 – almost exactly where they were before Brocade launched its bid three months ago. We’ll see if the initial offer holds up when Foundry shareholders vote on the deal Wednesday afternoon.

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.