Entries from July 2010 ↓

Why Autonomy won’t – or shouldn’t – buy Open Text

At the time of Autonomy’s Q2 results last week, a fair few commentators said an acquisition of Open Text was imminent. We know that a large deal is imminent and the enterprise value of Open Text (OTEX) is in Autonomy’s ball park. Plus OTEX – itself a roll-up machine somewhat akin to Autonomy –  isn’t exactly in the rudest of health right now.

On the earnings calls CEO Mike Lynch said Autonomy’s next major acquisition would not be done to buy growth (we have already expressed our thoughts on that), nor would it be done simply because the price is right. It would have to be a strategic move, a game-changer. Well, OTEX isn’t that, in our mind at least. So what would such a deal give Autonomy?

Sure, it would give it practically all the document management business in the legal sector. But so what? Autonomy already has a lot of that via its Interwoven acquisition. It would also bring with it yet more overlapping content management products and a collaboration business being eaten by SharePoint. On the plus side, it would roughly triple Autonomy’s customer base to about 65,000 organizations.

Of course, I could be completely wrong and August 18 could be the date on which that is proved, as it’s OTEX’s Q4 results announcement. That is, if SAP hasn’t got there first.

Still, Tibco or Informatica make far more sense to us as truly strategic acquisitions for Autonomy. But of course, in order to buy something you have to find a willing seller, and we’re not so certain those sorts of companies relish the prospect of ending up inside Autonomy as much as a company that has few other choices might do.

Autonomy’s Q2 – magical stuff happens

Clients of 451 will have seen our report yesterday on Autonomy’s Q2 and 1H10 results. I won’t repeat it all here but in it we looked at the some of the more puzzling aspects of the company’s numbers. These include:

  • Organic growth:  “IDOL product” revenue of $62m this time was in contrast to $47m in Q1. It said at the time of the Q1 results on April 21 that it had $10m of hardware inventory, which most understood to be its Arcpliance archiving and ECA appliance. It said it had already sold most of that in Q2. That is a new product, so if that $10m is removed from the $62m (since it’s recognized as up-front license revenue), and a little bit more is taken off for sales to federal government via the recently-acquired MicroLink (Autonomy trumpeted a multimillion dollar federal deal in Q2), then you get very close to the $47m figure from Q1, and thus, next to no organic growth. That compares to the company’s claim of 19% organic growth for IDOL in the quarter and 13% across all products and services.
  • Cloud & SaaS & hosting: Autonomy gives out some seemingly helpful but often confusing metrics in terms of its product breakdowns. It said  SaaS-based revenue accounted for more than one-quarter of the company’s revenue in the first half. fair enough, and pretty interesting. But it also attributed revenues of $47m (out of $211.6M in total) to what it calls “IDOL cloud.” That’s 22%. However that isn’t one of the terms used in the way Autonomy packages its products so it’s hard to tell what it is. For instance, how much of ‘IDOL cloud’ is Zantaz’s hosted archiving product isn’t clear.
  • Services: It puzzles me how a company selling a product that is powerful, but complex to implement, as Autonomy is, can make do with next to no professional services, instead relying almost solely on partners. This tends to leave customers – especially those spending less than $1m with the company – with a lot of integration work on their hands. It also puzzles us when it goes and picks up a service firm like MicroLink, paying $55m for assets it says are worth $1m with the rest being goodwill (as it disclosed in Q2’s results).
  • OEM: The company said that OEM is its fastest growing revenue stream. It should also be noted that Autonomy sells two main products via its OEM channel. One is IDOL, the core search and categorization engine. The other is KeyView, the set of file filters it got with its acquisition of Verity almost five years ago. The former costs a lot more than the latter, and once the customer has implemented it, the former is a lot harder to replace than the latter. Nevertheless, when Autonomy announces a new OEM customer or a renewal, it usually doesn’t differentiate between these two. Incidentally it made a bold claim on the call yesterday, namely that almost all the major archiving vendors are OEM customers of Autonomy, which means all its main competitors in that space as it’s very much an archiving vendor too. In cases like that it’s quite important to distinguish between OEMing IDOL and OEMing KeyView as the former is much more of a differentiator than the latter.

There’s more in the report but mainly in the form of other things that puzzle me about these numbers, rather than a list of answers. Still, another acquisition is sure to come along soon  and change the picture again.