End of an encryption era?

Contact: Ben Kolada

There has been considerable consolidation in the drive encryption sector over the past half-decade, most recently with Dell acquiring OEM partner Credant Technologies. However, with Dell taking Credant off the table, meaningful consolidation may be complete as there are few potential buyers left.

Dell is buying its OEM disk encryption software partner Credant in what could be seen as a tech tuck-in. The acquisition provides Dell with the IP rights to technology it already sells – Credant’s Data Protection Suite was available on Dell’s laptops and workstations as a preconfigured option. Terms weren’t disclosed, but we’re hearing that Credant generated trailing revenue in the $20-30m ballpark. (We’ll have a full report on the transaction in our next Daily 451.)

After earlier rounds of consolidation in this sector by security giants Symantec, McAfee and Check Point Software, there aren’t many potential acquirers left. In fact, it appears that the number of likely targets may outnumber the likely acquirers. Although M&A in this sector seems to be either at its end or near it, two remaining targets we would point to are still-independent vendors WinMagic and Zecurion.

Similar acquisitions to Dell buying Credant

Date announced Acquirer Target Deal value TTM revenue
September 22, 2011 Wave Systems Safend $12.8m Not disclosed
April 29, 2010 Symantec GuardianEdge Technologies $70m $18m
April 29, 2010 Symantec PGP $300m $75m
October 8, 2007 McAfee SafeBoot $350m $60m*
November 20, 2006 Check Point Software Technologies Protect Data [dba Pointsec] $586m $63.8m

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

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Is Sucuri for sale?

Contact: Ben Kolada

Just a month after its newfound partner VirusTotal was scooped up by Google, antimalware detection and remediation startup Sucuri may be next on the auction block. Word has it that the two-year-old company is attracting takeover attention. That shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, given the growth potential of the website antimalware monitoring market and the strategic importance companies are placing these days on their online presences.

Sucuri provides a website malware detection product and associated remediation service meant to prevent customers’ websites from being blacklisted by search engines, namely Google. The company’s software scans websites for malware infection and alerts the customer. Sucuri then provides a cleanup service to remove the malware. As businesses continue to transition from brick-and-mortar to e-commerce models, such services will become increasingly important to growing sales, especially during the upcoming holiday season. Given its short lifespan, we suspect that the company is currently generating less than $10m in revenue.

No word yet on which companies may be looking to acquire Sucuri, but the list likely includes mass-market hosting vendors and large security firms. Like its competitors, Sucuri’s go-to-market strategy so far has been partnering with hosting companies, though it also sells directly to customers. The company lists Web host ClickHOST as a partner, as well as a half-dozen WordPress hosting and site design vendors. As for possible security suitors, the most likely acquirers that immediately come to mind are Proofpoint, Kaspersky Lab, Websense, Symantec, AVG Technologies or AVAST Software.

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @MAKnowledgebase.

Though relatively small, Thoma Bravo’s Mediware buy signals larger trends

Contact: Ben Kolada

Although Thoma Bravo’s $195m reach for Mediware Information Systems isn’t exactly a market-moving acquisition, tech dealmakers will note that the transaction underscores a pair of larger trends in tech M&A. The deal continues the consolidation in the medical-focused IT vertical, as well as hints at the reemergence of buyout shops as volume acquirers.

Thoma Bravo is handing over $22 in cash for each share of Mediware’s stock, a 40% premium to the day-prior closing price, and the highest price Mediware’s shares have ever seen. The transaction values Mediware’s equity at $195m. However, the medical management software vendor’s $40m in cash holdings, and no debt, reduces its net cost to $155m. Using that enterprise value figure, Mediware is valued at 2.4 times trailing revenue and 8.8x trailing EBITDA.

Mediware’s sale is the latest acquisition in the rapidly consolidating medical-focused IT vertical. In July, Huntsman Gay Global Capital sold Sunquest Information Systems to Roper Industries for $1.4bn, or about 10x projected EBITDA, and One Equity Partners acquired M*Modal for an enterprise value of $1.1bn, or 2.4x trailing sales. We’ve recently noted that medical speech recognition and transcription companies in particular seem to be receiving considerable buyout interest.

While the Mediware acquisition shows the health of medical-focused tech M&A, it also points at somewhat of a reemergence of private equity firms as volume acquirers. Thoma Bravo, including its portfolio companies LANDesk and PLATO Learning, has already announced five acquisitions this year. PE firms were also especially active in August, with Carlyle Group shelling out $3.3bn for Getty Images.

PE activity also comes while some strategics are sitting on the sidelines. For instance, CA Technologies, which has historically announced about four acquisitions per year, has only announced one this year – the purchase of process automation software veteran Paragon Global Technology. The deal, announced this week, is CA’s first disclosed transaction in more than a year. Also, Symantec has been out of the market since March.

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @MAKnowledgebase.

An extended cold snap in the M&A market

Contact: Brenon Daly

The tech M&A spending slump continued into February. For the sixth straight month, the aggregate value of deals came in at only about $10bn. (Specifically, we tallied 256 deals in February, worth just $9.7bn – the lowest monthly spending total in a year.) The rather anemic recent spending comes after a flurry of dealmaking last summer had many observers speculating about a return to a more robust M&A environment.

Instead, recent monthly spending has flat-lined at just half the level it was last summer. Another way to look at the activity: The total value of deals so far this year (January and February combined for $20.6bn in spending) is only equal to the single-month totals from April to August last year.

One reason why 2011 has gotten off to such a slow start is that many big-name tech buyers haven’t been in the market. Among the companies that have yet to open their M&A account this year: Microsoft, Symantec, Oracle, IBM, EMC, BMC and others.

What’s up with the Bay Area?

Contact: Ben Kolada

Bay Area buyers have roared back to life in 2010. Compared to the same period a year ago, Bay Area buyers’ deal volume has increased 46%, while at the national level M&A has risen only 21%. Year-to-date, Bay Area-based acquirers announced 230 transactions, 19% of all technology deals undertaken by US-based companies. Further, these companies represent 19% of the total declared deal amount, including four of the 18 billion dollar-plus transactions made by US-based buyers. In the same period last year, Bay Area acquirers did only 162 deals.

So, what’s up with the Bay Area? Our data suggests that 15 big serial acquirers accounted for most of the increase. In fact, the number of Bay Area buyers acquiring three or more companies increased five-fold in 2010, compared to a 50% increase at the national level. After waiting on the sidelines in 2009, these companies have resumed M&A activity in full force. As a group, they bought 52 more companies in year-to-date 2010 than they bought in 2009. (An interesting note, Internet content providers were the preferred targets across the board, representing 22% of acquired companies at both the Bay Area and national levels.)

M&A activity by Bay Area buyers

Acquirer 2010 deal volume, year-to-date 2009 year-ago period
Google 15 0
Oracle 7 5
Playdom 6 0
Apple 4 0
Facebook 4 0
Symantec 4 1
Synopsys 4 1
Trimble Navigation 4 5
Cisco Systems 3 3
Hewlett-Packard 3 2
TIBCO Software 3 0
Twitter 3 0
VMware [EMC] 3 0
Yahoo 3 0
Zynga 3 0
Totals 69 17

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase, 451 Group research

Google is the poster child for Bay Area M&A. Year-to-date, the company has been involved in 15 transactions – the most since it inked the same amount of deals in full-year 2007. However, the search giant is noticeably absent from the 2009 ranking. Even though Mountain View, California-based Google had $8.6bn in cash at the end of 2008, the vendor took nearly a year-long break from M&A activity. Google’s M&A drought began after it acquired TNC in September 2008 and ended 11 months later, when it announced its first purchase of a public company – On2 Technologies – in August 2009.

Symantec-Veritas without the strings

Where Symantec purchased, McAfee will partner. Having watched its major security competitor get bogged down with a storage acquisition, McAfee has opted for a low-risk partnership to tie its security products with storage. The largest stand-alone security vendor said Tuesday that it has struck an alliance with data management software provider CommVault. The initial integrated product, which will put CommVault’s storage resource management tool into McAfee’s ePolicy Orchestrator console, will be available next year.

With modest integration and no bundled products planned, we would characterize McAfee’s loose partnership with CommVault as ‘Symantec-Veritas lite.’ And the two sides have reason to be cautious, given the struggles Symantec has had with its $13.5bn purchase of Veritas. (Although he continues to back the deal, Symantec CEO John Thompson has said the market considers the combination a ‘purple elephant’ and is uncertain of how to value it.) Since the transaction was announced in December 2004, Symantec shares have lost about half of their value, compared to a 20% decline in the Nasdaq and a slight 5% dip in McAfee stock.

Unsecured M&A

In the past month alone, we’ve seen a number of landmark IT security transactions. Symantec inked the largest-ever software-as-a-service security deal, paying $695m for MessageLabs. The largest pure security vendor, McAfee, announced its biggest deal, doubling down on network security with its $497m purchase of Secure Computing. And the formerly somnolent Sophos shook off its sleepiness to go shopping. It recently closed its $341m purchase of Utimaco, the largest acquisition of a publicly held security company by a private company.

So with all of these big-ticket transactions, overall deal flow in security should be strong, right? Actually, year-to-date totals are running at less than half the level of either of the previous two years. The reason: large consolidation plays have been knocked off the table this year. So far, just one security transaction worth more than $500m has been announced, down from five during the same period last year and four in 2006.

Security M&A totals

Period Deal volume Deal value Selected transactions
January 1-October 13, 2006 96 $6bn EMC-RSA, IBM-Internet Security Systems
January 1-October 13, 2007 70 $7.2bn Cisco-IronPort, SafeNet LBO, Google-Postini
January 1-October 13, 2008 68 $2.7bn Symantec-MessageLabs, McAfee-Secure Computing

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase

Take the next exit

In addition to clobbering existing stocks, the recent financial crisis has thinned the ranks of companies that we had expected to offer up stock in the coming months. In the past week alone, two companies that we had short-listed as IPO candidates (back when there was an IPO market) both got swallowed in trade sales.

On Wednesday, MessageLabs took a $695m offer from Symantec to help establish Big Yellow’s on-demand security offering. We understand MessageLabs had put together its underwriting ticket, and was planning to hit the market once the IPO window opened again. The IPO track was a distinct change from the path rumored for MessageLabs for more than two years. Several sources have indicated that MessageLabs had been shopped widely, with Trend Micro considered the most serious suitor at times.

And last week, we had to take LeftHand Networks out of the ‘shadow IPO pipeline’ when Hewlett-Packard came calling with a $360m offer. For more than a year we have noted that, pending the return of the market for new offerings, LeftHand appeared set to join the IPO parade of storage vendors (a half-dozen storage companies have gone public in the past two years). Instead, LeftHand sold, in a deal banked by Merrill Lynch. Incidentally, Merrill Lynch also banked the sale of another company that had its eye on the public market: Postini, a direct rival to MessageLabs, went to Google for $625m in July 2007.

Symantec ‘discovers’ Kazeon?

We hear Symantec, which has already inked five deals so far this year, may be getting close to another acquisition. Several sources have indicated that Big Yellow is planning to bolster its e-discovery offering through a purchase of startup Kazeon Systems. The two companies have been partners for a year, with Kazeon able to integrate with Symantec’s Enterprise Vault and Enterprise Vault Discovery Accelerator. Mountain View, California-based Kazeon has raised some $51m in venture backing from a handful of firms, including Redpoint Ventures, Clearstone Venture Partners and Menlo Ventures, which led the startup’s second round.

Several large technology vendors have already made e-discovery acquisitions, running up a tab of about a half-billion dollars in the past year alone. Most recently, Interwoven snagged on-demand e-discovery startup Discovery Mining. In the past, we have speculated that NetApp, which at one point accounted for more than half of Kazeon’s revenue through an OEM arrangement, would be a logical buyer of Kazeon. (We would note, however, that NetApp’s share of total sales at Kazeon has declined in recent months.)

While the e-discovery marketplace is relatively crowded, there are also several key challenges for companies looking to sell in this space. For starters, e-discovery products don’t immediately appeal to departments that must budget to buy software, such as IT or finance. The end user of the e-discovery software, which in many cases is a company’s general counsel, may not have the authority to write a check for an offering that can run $100,000 and up. We recently spoke with a venture capitalist who pulled the plug on an e-discovery startup in his portfolio. He pointed out that e-discovery projects are still largely taken on by service providers and companies have been slow to move that work in-house with purchased software. Recognizing this last fact, Kazeon has inked a number of service partners for its e-discovery products.

Selected e-discovery deals over the past year

Date Acquirer Target Deal value
July 2008 Interwoven Discovery Mining $36m
March 2008 Hewlett-Packard Tower Software $100m
February 2008 Dell MessageOne $155m
December 2007 Seagate Metalincs $74m
October 2007 Iron Mountain Stratify $158m

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase

Post-acquisition decapitation

The write-offs from wrong-headed acquisitions just keep coming. And we don’t mean just financial write-offs. Instead, we’re referring to the practice of a company’s board ‘writing off’ the executives who crafted a deal. This week’s high-profile example came when Alcatel-Lucent finally tossed overboard the two architects of ‘la grande fusion.’ Since that deal was announced in April 2006, the combination has incinerated some $20bn over shareholder value, leaving the telco equipment vendor with a market capitalization of just $13.6bn. (That’s less than the sales the company posted in 2007.) That two-year performance finally got Serge Tchuruk, the company’s chairman who represents the Alcatel side of the combination, and Patricia Russo, the Lucent legacy, shown the door.

This house-cleaning at Acaltel-Lucent comes just two weeks after AMD kicked Hector Ruiz upstairs. In virtually the same breath that AMD announced Ruiz would be relieved of his CEO post but continue as chairman, the company said it will divest much of the business it picked up with its $5.4bn purchase of graphics chip maker ATI Technologies. Announcing the deal two years ago, Ruiz said his combination offered ‘limitless’ possibilities for innovation. Instead, the future of AMD looks rather limited, in large part because of the $2.5bn it borrowed to cover its disastrous purchase of ATI. AMD’s total debt stands at $5bn, compared with just $1.6bn in cash.

Meanwhile, a chief executive who we’ve always thought must be on the hot-seat for a misguided acquisition appears to have gotten a bit of a reprieve this week. Symantec CEO John Thompson said Wednesday that fiscal first-quarter sales of its backup products outpaced overall revenue growth. That reverses the recent weakness in the company’s storage offering, which Symantec acquired with its $13.5bn purchase of Veritas in December 2004. Wall Street applauded the company’s report, with shares up about 10% since Wednesday. Still, Thompson has yet to recognize much value from the three-and-half-year-old purchase of Veritas. Symantec shares, which changed hands at $21.74 midday on Friday, are still about $6 below where they were when the company picked up Veritas. Perhaps that goes some distance to explaining the loose rumors this week that something big – possibly the much-discussed divestiture of the storage business or even an outright sale of the company – was brewing at Symantec.

Leading the acquisition

Deal Stock performance since deal Status of acquiring company CEO since deal
Symantec-Veritas, Dec. 2004 Down 35% John Thompson, CEO since April 1999, continues to serve
Alcatel-Lucent, April 2006 Down 61% CEO Russo and chairman Tchuruk ousted this week
AMD-ATI, July 2006 Down 77% Long-time CEO Hector Ruiz replaced in mid-July
Secure Computing-CipherTrust, July 2006 Down 51% Chairman and CEO John McNulty replaced in April

Source: Company reports, The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase