The value of information

Contact: Ben Kolada

In its largest-ever acquisition, IHS is paying $1.4bn for Southfield, Michigan-based automotive data and information provider R.L. Polk & Co. Consumers may know the company better as the provider of the CARFAX vehicle information product. The deal is a significant move to grow a relatively young IHS division.

While IHS Automotive was launched just two years ago, Polk was founded in 1870, nearly four decades before Henry Ford’s first Model T hit the road. The company today provides online market research and a database of VINs for the automobile industry. Its Polk division accounts for about 40% of revenue. The remainder of revenue comes from its CARFAX division, which provides an online database of vehicle history information for used car dealers and consumers.

IHS claims growth potential was the rationale for this acquisition. Although Polk’s total annual revenue has only grown in the mid- to single-digit range, its CARFAX product has recorded ‘solid’ double-digit growth annually. Meanwhile, IHS says CARFAX is only 20-30% penetrated in the US. IHS also sees particular upside in international markets, where Polk currently generates just 12% of its sales.

IHS is paying $1.4bn (90% in cash and 10% in stock) for Polk, valuing the target at 3.5x its annual revenue and approximately 14x its adjusted EBITDA. (IHS disclosed that Polk generated adjusted EBITDA in the mid-20% range.) Evercore Partners advised Polk, while M. Klein and Company advised IHS.

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