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: silence, suitors and synergy

Contact: Brenon Daly

If Lawson Software had held its scheduled call later this afternoon to discuss its third-quarter earnings report, we suspect that attendance would have been a bit higher than usual. Instead, the old-line ERP vendor scrapped it, citing the two-week-old unsolicited offer from industry consolidator Infor Global Solutions. (Those sorts of things tend to happen to companies that count Carl Icahn as their largest shareholder.) Lawson, advised by Barclays Capital, has said only that it is reviewing the proposal.

While Lawson’s silence is entirely understandable from a company that’s been put in play, it did nothing to dampen investor speculation that another suitor would show up. The stock, which has traded above the $11.25-per-share bid since it was launched, inched a little higher to $12.14 in Thursday afternoon activity. Lawson shares haven’t seen these levels since March 2002.

Perhaps inevitably, Oracle’s name has surfaced as a potential buyer. While Lawson isn’t particularly cheap, it’s also not particularly expensive. Its current market cap of $2bn works out to about 2.6 times projected sales of $770m for the current fiscal year and roughly 15x EBITDA. Another way to look at it: the market values Lawson at about 5x its maintenance revenue. (For comparison, Epicor Software trades at 1.7x sales and roughly 3x maintenance revenue.)

For buyout shops, Lawson’s valuation is already at the upper end of the range that could still deliver a decent financial return, we would think. Of course, Infor is owned by a private equity firm, Golden Gate Capital. But in terms of bidding, Infor is more of a strategic buyer than a financial one when it comes to ‘synergies.’ After all, privately held Infor already has the corporate infrastructure in place to run a $2bn business, roughly three times the size of Lawson.

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.

Looking at Lawson

Contact: Brenon Daly

What was shaping up as an explosive showdown between Carl Icahn and Genzyme has been defused ahead of today’s board meeting at the biotech company. By adding two nominees selected by Icahn to the expanded board of directors, Genzyme avoided the full-blown proxy fight that had been brewing. With that matter settled, we wonder if Icahn will turn his attention to his newest tech investment – Lawson Software.

The gadfly investor owns stock and options equaling about 15.6 million Lawson shares, or roughly 9.7% of the old-line ERP vendor. As is often the case in his investments, Icahn says he will push for moves that maximize shareholder value, which could include a sale of the company. However, we would note that in his recent role as shareholder activist, Icahn hasn’t succeeded in putting his holdings in play.

Although he helped spur the sale of BEA Systems in early 2008, his more recent agitation hasn’t necessarily resulted in M&A. Among other holdings, Icahn has owned or currently owns stakes in Yahoo, Motorola and Mentor Graphics – all of which still trade on their own. Likewise, we suspect Lawson will remain independent, even if Icahn pushes for a sale.

For starters, the company isn’t cheap. Shares have tacked on 60% over the past year – twice the return of the Nasdaq and three times the gain of Oracle over the same period. That gives Lawson a market capitalization of $1.3bn. (It holds roughly the same amount of cash and debt, so Lawson’s enterprise value is also about $1.3bn.)

If we assume the company will generate about $350m in maintenance revenue in its current fiscal year, Lawson currently trades at 3.7 times its maintenance revenue. A conservative 30% premium on top of Lawson’s current valuation would add $400m to the price, for a total cost of $1.7bn or nearly 5 times maintenance revenue. That valuation isn’t overly rich, but it is probably at the high end of the range that a financial-minded buyer could make work.