Intuit mints a rich deal

-Contact Thomas Rasmussen, Brenon Daly

We might be inclined to read Intuit’s recent purchase of Mint Software as a case of ‘If you can’t beat ’em, buy ’em.’ The acquisition by the powerhouse of personal finance software undoubtedly gives the three-year-old startup a premium valuation. Intuit will hand over $170m in cash for Mint, which we understand was running at less than $10m in revenue. (Although we should add that Mint had only just begun looking for ways to make money from its growing 1.5-million user base.)

More than revenue, we suspect this deal was driven by Intuit’s desire to get into a new market, online money management and budgeting, as well as the fear of the prospects of a much smaller but rapidly growing competitor. (Intuit and Mint have been talking for most of this year, according to one source.) In that way, Intuit’s latest acquisition has some distinct echoes of its previous buy, that of online payroll service PayCycle. For starters, the purchase price of both PayCycle and Mint totaled $170m. And even more unusually, bulge bracket biggie Goldman Sachs advised Intuit on both of these summertime deals. (Remember the days when major banks would hardly answer the phone for any transaction valued at less than a half-billion dollars? How times change.) On the other side of the table in this week’s deal, Credit Suisse’s Colin Lang advised Mint.

Intuit M&A, 2007 – present

Date Target Deal value
September 14, 2009 Mint Software $170m
June 2, 2009 PayCycle $170m
April 17, 2009 BooRah <$1m*
December 3, 2008 Entellium $8m
December 19, 2007 Electronic Clearing House $131m
November 26, 2007 Homestead Technologies $170m

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

Banking deals

With the current credit crisis rocking the big banks, online consumer banking portal Bankrate has sidestepped most of the damage and even plans to do a bit of shopping. In the last month alone, it acquired banking blog Bankaholic and consumer credit resource portal for $12.4m and $34m, respectively. That brought its total shopping tab over the past year to $150m on six acquisitions. (We would note that most of the companies that Bankrate picked up were existing partners.) The company recently told us that it will continue its acquisition spree, and it has the means to do so. Bankrate will have an estimated $35m in cash after its latest acquisitions, and has generated some $25m in cash flow over the past year. So who might the portal bank next?

Bankrate is decidedly a so-called ‘Web 1.0′ company. It lacks the customization and social networking features that many of its newer Web 2.0 competitors tout. This lack of new technology, along with a softening online advertising market, could land the portal in trouble. Bankrate could help shore itself up against those technology shortcomings by focusing its acquisition efforts on personal finance startups like Rudder and However, we don’t think it will do that. Instead, we expect Bankrate to focus strictly on the space that it knows, expanding partly by targeting its legacy competitors.

Given this, we think a likely target might be, which is both a rival and a partner., majority owned by Austin Ventures since 2006, tapped Credit Suisse and Citigroup to bring it public in December, but the economic environment forced it to delay its offering in May. The company is profitable, with $60m in sales, but is laden with debt. Besides having very similar businesses, the two companies are hardly strangers. In fact, current CEO Elisabeth DeMarse was the CEO of Bankrate prior to becoming Austin Ventures’ CEO-in-residence.

Given’s likely valuation of several hundred million dollars, however, it is unlikely that Bankrate could afford the acquisition. (Bankrate currently sports a market capitalization of about $700m.) Instead, we suspect that Bankrate will continue to ink tuck-in acquisitions. We wouldn’t be surprised if smaller competitors like or caught its eye.

Recent Bankrate acquisitions

Date Target Deal Value
September 23, 2008 Bankaholic $12.4m
September 11, 2008 LinkSpectrum (dba $34m
February 5, 2008 InsureMe $65m
February 5, 2008 Lower Fees (dba Fee Disclosure) $2.9m
December 10, 2007 Nationwide Card Services $27.4m
December 10, 2007 $2.3m

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase