IBM finds a bargain in Silverpop purchase

Contact: Brenon Daly

Fittingly enough for an acquisition to bolster its Smarter Commerce portfolio, IBM appears to have smartly picked up a bargain in its purchase of marketing automation (MA) vendor Silverpop. Big Blue didn’t release terms of the deal, but reports put the transaction value at roughly $250m-300m. Assuming that’s roughly accurate, it would value Silverpop at only about half the valuation that other significant MA providers have received in recent exits.

According to our understanding, Silverpop put up about $80m in sales last year. However, several industry sources have indicated that the Atlanta-based startup was only growing at about 10-15%. Other similar-sized MA firms are vastly outstripping that rate. For instance, Marketo boosted its top line almost 70% in 2013, and we estimate that HubSpot was right in that neighborhood, too. More broadly, a recent report from 451 Research’s MarketMonitor service forecasted 22% CAGR for the overall MA industry over the next four years.

Silverpop’s sluggish growth would appear to have put pressure on its valuation, with IBM paying 3-4x trailing sales for the company. Meanwhile, rivals such as Oracle, Adobe and have paid multiples ranging from roughly 6-10x trailing sales. Overall, the shopping spree has topped $7bn in spending for MA vendors.

Select marketing automation deals

Date announced Acquirer Target Price to sales ratio Deal value
December 20, 2013 Oracle Responsys 7.7x $1.6bn
June 27, 2013 Adobe Systems Neolane 8.6x* $600m
June 4, 2013 ExactTarget 7.6x $2.5bn
December 20, 2012 Oracle Eloqua 9.7x $956m
April 27, 2012 Intuit Demandforce 11.4x* $423.5m
December 22, 2010 Teradata Aprimo 6.3x $525m
August 13, 2010 IBM Unica 4.4x $523m

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