A responsible debut valuation for Responsys

Contact: Brenon Daly

Reversing a trend that has seen many of the major marketing software providers disappear inside larger players, Responsys is ready to step out onto the public market. The on-demand company, which filed its IPO paperwork just four months ago, plans to sell 6.6 million shares at $8.50-10 each. It is likely to begin trading Thursday. (See our full preview of the offering.)

At the high end of the range, Responsys would be valued at roughly $450m. That appears to be a fairly conservative valuation, at least when compared with recent acquisitions and even current trading multiples in the sector. We might suggest that Responsys – a company that’s solidly in the black and posting 40% growth – would garner a premium on its debut.

If it does indeed hit the market in the neighborhood of a half-billion dollars, Responsys will essentially match the exit prices over the past eight months of two of its main rivals. Last August, Unica got taken out by IBM for $523m (equity value), while Aprimo sold to Teradata for $525m in December. However, when we compare the three vendors, Responsys is growing at more than twice the rate of either of the two companies that went in a trade sale. (Aprimo had been on file to go public back in 2007, but the Credit Crisis scotched those plans.)

Despite the premium that we might expect for Responsys’ growth rate, the company is likely to start life on the Nasdaq at about 5.5 times trailing sales, roughly the midpoint of the valuations in the sales of Unica and Aprimo. Further, it would just match the current market valuation of Constant Contact, a low-end multichannel marketing firm that went public in October 2007.