A short-lived bid for Chordiant

Contact: Brenon Daly

In many ways, CDC Software’s unsolicited bid for Chordiant Software was over before it even began. As it was, the end became official late Thursday, as CDC Software pulled its $105m cash-and-stock offer for the money-losing CRM vendor just a week after floating it. It was clear that the hastily assembled ‘proactive offer’ (as CDC Software referred to it) was never going to get very far with Chordiant. Shares of the company spent virtually all summer above CDC Software’s bid of $3.46, which reflected a scant 14% premium over the closing of Chordiant shares in the previous session.

Chordiant, advised by Morgan Stanley, brushed aside CDC Software’s proposal with the ever-popular dismissal that the bid ‘significantly undervalues’ the company. (CDC Software didn’t retain an adviser, we understand.) Chordiant’s rebuff, combined with the poison pill it has in place, effectively killed the deal. CDC Software pretty much acknowledged that earlier this week when it announced that it intended to unwind its tiny 1.3% stake in Chordiant, which totaled just less than 400,000 shares. Incidentally, speaking of shares, although Chordiant stock dipped a bit when CDC Software pulled its offer, it was still closed above the bid price on Friday.

Broadcom-Emulex: Failure rewarded?

Contact: Brenon Daly

Is this a case of the market rewarding failure? Since Broadcom unveiled its now-aborted bid for Emulex, shares of both companies have outperformed the Nasdaq. That bull run stands in sharp contrast to the performance of firms that have been involved in other unsolicited efforts, as we noted when Broadcom first started squeezing Emulex. Broadcom took its unsolicited offer public for its fellow southern California-based vendor on April 21. Initially, Broadcom was set to hand over $9.25 in cash for each share of Emulex, although last week it bumped the bid up to $11 per share. That’s not a bad premium for Emulex, which had spent much of the year trading at around $6.

Of course, it’s not surprising that Emulex shares would be trading higher, given the ‘floor’ valuation that Broadcom put on the company. (On Friday morning, Emulex stock was changing hands at around $9, just slightly below Broadcom’s opening bid.) On the other side, Broadcom stock has slightly outperformed the broader market over the two and a half months that it has been trying to land Emulex. On Thursday, Broadcom gave up its effort. In a brief release explaining the abandoned bid, Broadcom CEO Scott McGregor said the company would now look at other ‘value-creating alternatives.’ Like, say, an unsolicited run at another company?

Actuate: A bit or the whole thing?

Contact: Brenon Daly

It turns out that Actuate may have some competition for its own stock. A month ago, the enterprise reporting veteran announced plans to buy back some $60m worth of its own equity, at $3.15-3.40 per share (Jefferies & Co. is running the process). Under those terms, the buyback would have removed up to 19 million shares from a base of about 65.5 million.

However, since Actuate revealed the tender offer on November 5, the markets have continued to plummet, with the Nasdaq slumping almost 20%. Accordingly, Actuate trimmed the price it was willing to pay for its own shares to $2.20-2.60 each. On Thursday, it bumped up the range to $3.00-3.50. What prompted the boost? Was it a holiday gift from the company to its shareholders, who have seen their stock drop nearly 70% over the past year?

As it happens, Actuate raised the price of the planned buyback because an unnamed party offered $3.50 per share for the whole company. Actuate’s board said the unsolicited proposal, which would value the company at nearly $230m, is not in shareholders’ ‘best interests.’ While it’s uncertain how the mysterious unsolicited offer and the tender offer will play out, it seems pretty clear that one way or another, some Actuate shares are going to come off the board.

Hedge fund goes tender on Epicor

The largest shareholder of Epicor on Wednesday took its unsolicited bid directly to shareholders, just one day after the ERP vendor nixed the offer. Two weeks ago, hedge fund Elliott Associates offered $9.50 for each share of Epicor, giving the proposed transaction a $566m equity value and $814m enterprise value. (Elliott says the all-cash bid is not conditional on financing.) Epicor officially shot down the proposal, asked shareholders to wait for its board to review the proposal. The tender offer is set to expire in a month, but can be extended. Elliott, which began buying the stock in June, owns 10% of the equity, plus a slug of convertible notes. Epicor shares closed Wednesday up 4 cents at $6.84.

Signing off on a deal

The bear just keeps grumbling – and we don’t mean the bear market. Instead, we’re talking about the all-the-rage bear hugs that companies are giving each other. The latest: Nuance Communications’ $40m unsolicited offer for Zi Corp. (Incidentally, the new hostilities come as a pair of previous unsolicited deals – Cadence Design Systems’ run at Mentor Graphics and Electronic Arts’ move on Take-Two Interactive – head toward largely civil conclusions.)

Nuance’s offer is a classic opportunistic squeeze play, right down to the timing. The acquisition-hungry company launched the bid just hours after Zi reported second-quarter results that did nothing to shore up its already weak standing on Wall Street. (Among the lowlights for Zi: Sales in the second quarter fell by one-third, and it burned through half its cash, which fell to just $2.6m from $5m at the beginning of the year.)

Still, Nuance sees some value in Zi, and Chris Hazelton, who heads up The 451 Group’s Mobile Practice, agrees. He notes that Zi’s handwriting-recognition technology would complement Nuance’s existing mobile offering. Handwriting recognition is particularly important in Asia, where symbols rather than letters are used in many writing systems. Of course, Asia is also a booming market for mobile products.

Nuance has already shown that it’s ready to go shopping in the mobile market. About a year ago, it spent $265m for Tegic Communications to get a keypad technology platform. And make no mistake, mobile is becoming an increasingly important slice of business for Nuance, which was formerly known for basic speech recognition on PCs. In Nuance’s most-recent quarter, revenue in its mobile business grew more than twice as fast as overall revenue, and the company projected that the division would account for 20% of total sales in the current fiscal year, up from just 13% last year.

We wouldn’t be surprised in the least if Nuance ended up ahead of its projection for its mobile business. The reason: We fully expect it to acquire Zi, which would add about $15m to the top line. Zi doesn’t want to sell – and told Nuance as much in an SEC filing – but we wonder how long the money-burning company can fend off Nuance. We’re guessing most Zi shareholders, who saw the stock sink to just 30 cents earlier this month, would like Zi to use its handwriting technology product to sign off on Nuance’s bid of 80 cents per share.

Selected unsolicited tech deals

Date launched Bidder Target Status
Aug. 2008 Nuance Zi Corp Zi has declined to negotiate
June 2008 Cadence Design Mentor Graphics Cadence dropped bid last week
May 2008 Barracuda Networks Sourcefire Sourcefire has declined to negotiate
March 2008 EMC Iomega EMC closed acquisition a month later
Feb. 2008 Electronic Arts Take-Two Interactive EA dropped tender offer, but talks continue
Feb. 2008 Microsoft Yahoo Microsoft dropped bid after three months

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase