by Scott Denne
This past weekend marked 10 years since Adobe’s $1.8bn purchase of Omniture, the deal that arguably started the race among enterprise software vendors to build out customer experience software portfolios. Although that transaction marked the beginning, its decennial looks like the beginning of the end. While we tracked a record haul for customer experience software M&A in 2018, those companies are becoming increasingly harder to sell.
According to 451 Research‘s M&A KnowledgeBase, buyers spent $29.6bn in 2018 on vendors developing software for advertising, marketing, customer service, e-commerce and other forms of customer engagement. So far this year, just $8.3bn has been spent on such targets, on pace for the lowest annual total since 2015. Moreover, we’ve seen just five companies in this space sell for $200m or more, while each of the six previous full years have seen at least 10 deals of that size.
And the multiples on those acquisitions have fallen dramatically, our data shows. Last year almost every vendor in the category selling for that amount blew past the 5.2x trailing revenue that Omniture commanded. This year, however, such transactions fetched a median valuation of 2.3x, which is at least a full turn lower than the median valuation of similar deals in any single year over the past decade. This year, Dynamic Yield and TrendKite nabbed north of 8x in their respective sales to McDonald’s and Cision, while none of the other $200m cohort printed above 2.5x.
There’s little doubt that Adobe has seen success with its Omniture buy. The company expects to grow its Digital Experience business, the unit that houses Omniture (now Adobe Analytics) and several other related targets, by 23% to $3bn in the soon-to-close fiscal year. But other early, marquee investments in this sector weren’t as successful and there may not be as many deep-pocketed buyers as there once were. Both IBM and Teradata, for example, shed their marketing software units. Meanwhile Oracle, which still ranks as the most prolific acquirer in the segment, only printed one deal last year and none in almost 18 months.
by Scott Denne
The value of acquisitions in the low-code application development software market is rising. With Temenos’ $559m purchase of Kony, we’ve now recorded more deals and higher total value in this corner of the software market than all of 2018.
In reaching for Kony, Temenos, a developer of banking software, gets both a generic low-code tool and a portfolio of prebuilt digital banking applications. Although few low-code acquisitions we’ve tracked are vertically specific, applications developed with these tools often replace vertical-specific applications. That has helped bring private-equity investors, which have demonstrated an affinity for vertical software companies, into the space. Sponsors have printed three of the last five low-code vendor purchases.
Since these tools are often the foundation for multiple applications within an enterprise, they tend to have low churn rates – something that appeals to both strategic acquirers and sponsors. Kony, for example, has about a 5% attrition rate. So far this year, $1.7bn have been spent across four acquisitions in this market, according to 451 Research‘s M&A KnowledgeBase. That’s up from $1.3bn in three deals in 2018.
Part of the reason for the rise is that buyers are reaching for larger targets. Kony projects its topline will grow to $120m in 2020. Quickbase, Nintex and Mendix were all nearing or above $100m in their recent sales. (Subscribers to 451 Research’s M&A KnowledgeBase can access our estimates of those transactions by clicking on the links in the company names.)
Acquisitions of low-code app development vendors (includes disclosed and estimated deal values)
by Scott Denne
Companies developing predictive analytics for sales teams have done a poor job of predicting their own exit opportunities. In this corner of the sales-software market, several companies have exited, although most appear to be ‘acqui-hires,’ including the most recent deal, Anaplan’s acquisition of Mintigo.
Although Anaplan didn’t disclose the terms of its first acquisition as a public company, we expect the total came in below the $50m that Mintigo raised from investors. Anaplan only disclosed the acquisition during its earnings call, emphasizing that the purchase was done to land the target’s 50 employees, not for its B2B sales software. That would be a familiar outcome for the half dozen or so companies that launched earlier this decade to develop predictive analytics for B2B sales.
In 2015, LinkedIn acquired Fliptop to bolster the development team around its Sales Navigator product; a year later, eBay picked up the team that developed the now-defunct SalesPredict product; and in 2017 ESW Capital, a bargain-hunting PE firm, scooped up Infer. The exception, so far, is Lattice Engines, a growing business that sold to Dunn & Bradstreet at a respectable multiple (subscribers to 451 Research‘s M&A KnowledgeBase can access our estimate of that deal here).
For the remaining vendors in the space, the exit potential looks a bit brighter. Most have evolved, if not outright pivoted, beyond stand-alone sales analytics. Everstring relaunched a little over a year ago as a provider of business data, 6Sense is expanding into a marketing suite on top of its intent data, and Leadspace is moving into sales analytics from its foundation of sales data management. Topline growth at these companies could compel business data providers or enterprise software companies to make more strategic acquisitions of sales analytics than we’ve seen so far.
by Scott Denne
The sudden surge of Amazon’s advertising business has sparked acquisitions of software companies that help retailers become publishers. Microsoft is the latest entrant with the purchase of PromoteIQ, a maker of software that enables retailers to run product ads. As audience monetization becomes a feature of more e-commerce businesses, more deals could come.
For Microsoft, the pickup of PromoteIQ (formerly known as Spotfront) has overlap with its search advertising business. Product ads, often delivered alongside e-commerce search results, are essentially an evolution of paid search advertising. The target’s software provides retailers with workflows and controls to manage their sponsored product listings.
Amazon, more than any other company, has realized the potential for retailers to monetize their apps and websites through sponsored products. As we noted in a recent report, the online retail giant’s advertising business has tripled in less than two years to about $10bn in annual revenue. Despite that growth, the category is nascent enough that there’s not yet a widely accepted name for it. PromoteIQ refers to it as ‘vendor marketing,’ while Criteo and Triad, two of its larger rivals, call it ‘retail media.’
Given the early stages of the market, there are few sizeable players remaining for would-be buyers. Several midsized firms such as Adzerk, Crealytics, Koddi, Playwire and SYNQY offer retail media products. Another vendor, OwnerIQ, enables retailers to monetize purchase intent data gleaned from shoppers on their sites. As Amazon’s advertising revenue continues to balloon, targets in this space could get a look from acquirers in search (Google, Pinterest), e-commerce software (BigCommerce, Shopify) and retail-focused advertising (Quotient, Valassis).
by Scott Denne
Both strategic acquirers and sponsors have increased their purchases of application software vendors as the market for those targets accelerates beyond last year’s record. As those buyers stayed active, the largest deals grew larger and multiples continued to climb. Rising valuations for growth companies in the public markets – both new offeringsand already-public businesses – have pushed up pricing for software targets and could help propel deal sizes through the rest of the year.
According to 451 Research’s M&A KnowledgeBase, 632 application software providers have been acquired for a combined value of $59.2bn, on pace to top last year’s record haul in both value and volume. In our analysis of last year’s activity (published as part of 451 Research’s Tech M&A Outlook 2019), we noted that 2018 marked the first year that acquisitions of application software vendors crossed 1,100 as both strategic buyers and private equity firms accelerated their purchases.
The same trend has driven this year’s market as well. Both categories of acquirers are up from last year’s pace. Yet the number of big-ticket transactions is down a bit. While 29 application software providers sold for $1bn or more in 2018, only nine have done so this year. But those that have crossed the 10-figure mark have done so in a big way. Since the bursting of the dot-com bubble, only four such targets have sold for more than $10bn and two of them (Tableau Software and Ultimate Software) did so this year.
To be clear, the relative decline in the number of big-ticket acquisitions hasn’t pulled down the total deal value. If the current pace of deal value were to hold through the end of the year, it would finish more than one-quarter higher than last year, which smashed the previous record by nearly 50%. Put another way, at the midpoint of 2019, the total value of application software transactions is higher than all but two full years, our data shows.
Although fewer software vendors have sold for north of $1bn, those that have are fetching higher prices. According to the M&A KnowledgeBase, the median multiple for those deals this year stands at 8.1x trailing revenue, nearly a full turn above last year’s total. That rise comes amid a 22% year-to-date increase in the Nasdaq index and a welcoming environment for new tech listings, including software companies like Slack and Zoom Video, which commanded 62x and 41x multiples at the midpoint of the year, following their recent public market debuts. Such a compelling alternative exit could continue to boost acquisition prices.
Contact: Scott Denne
After a record-breaking performance for the software M&A market in 2016, the original cast bowed out as the understudies took the stage. Last year witnessed both strategic and financial acquirers making grand debuts in the application software market, while the most frequent and fulsome buyers of years past largely sat on the sidelines, resting from an unusually active 2016.
Spending on application software targets fell by one-third last year to $41.1bn from 2016’s highest-ever total amid a distinct lack of big-ticket deals. In total, there were 988 acquisitions of software companies, just 30 fewer than the year before. Only eight software targets attracted prices north of $1bn, compared with 14 in 2016, with last year’s tally representing the lowest total since 2009, according to 451 Research’s M&A KnowledgeBase.
As much as the numbers, the buyers were changed from earlier years. Although Oracle finished the year with the $1.2bn acquisition of construction software vendor Aconex, its $1.8bn in software M&A spending in 2017 represented a significant decline from the $10.8bn it spent a year earlier. Others were even less active. Salesforce didn’t print a single software deal last year, after spending $4bn in 2016. At the same time, IBM only did a pair of modest tuck-ins, nothing approaching the scale of its $2.6bn purchase of Truven Health Analytics in 2016.
Half of the companies that paid more than $1bn for an application software target in 2017 hadn’t inked a single software deal in any previous year this decade. Express Scripts came back to the market with a pair of transactions, including the year’s second-largest application software acquisition (eviCore Healthcare for $3.6bn), marking its first tech deals since 2009. Some new PE buyers also entered the software M&A market, including Partners Group, which made its first software transaction by paying $1.4bn for Civica – four times more than it had spent on any tech deal.
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