Another ‘down round’ IPO?

Contact: Brenon Daly

Another unicorn is set to gallop onto Wall Street, as MongoDB has put in its IPO paperwork. The open source NoSQL database provider plans to raise $100m in the offering, on top of the $311m it drew in from private-market investors over the past decade. As has been the case in other recent tech offerings, however, some of those later investors in MongoDB may well find that the IPO represents a ‘down round’ of funding.

Any discount for MongoDB likely won’t be as steep as the discount Wall Street put on the previous data platform provider to come public, Cloudera. Investors currently value the Hadoop pioneer at $2.2bn, slightly more than half its peak valuation as a private company. For its part, MongoDB, which last sold stock at $16.72, has more than 100 million shares outstanding, giving it a valuation of roughly $1.7bn.

While not directly comparable, Cloudera and MongoDB do share some traits that lend themselves to comparison. Both companies have their roots in open source software, and wrap some services around their licenses. (That said, MongoDB has gross margins more in line with a true software vendor than Cloudera. So far this year, it has been running at 71% gross margins, compared with just 46% for Cloudera.) Further, both companies are growing at about 50%, even though Cloudera is more than twice the size of MongoDB.

Assuming Wall Street looks at Cloudera for some direction on valuing MongoDB, shares of the NoSQL database provider appear set to hit the public market marked down from the private market. Cloudera is valued at slightly more than six times its projected revenue of $360m for the current fiscal year. Putting that multiple on the projected revenue of roughly $150m for MongoDB in its current fiscal year would pencil out to a market cap of about $920m. Given its cleaner business model and less red ink, MongoDB probably deserves a premium to Cloudera. While MongoDB certainly may top the $1bn valuation on its debut, reclaiming the previous peak price seems a bit out of reach.

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On its way to (eventual) IPO, Alfresco does its first bit of M&A

Contact: Brenon Daly

In its first-ever acquisition, Alfresco Software has reached for an existing partner, WeWebU Software. The purchase of the 13-year-old German startup adds more management capabilities – specifically, a roles-based, configuration application framework – on top of Alfresco’s core ECM platform. In addition to customization, WeWebU should also enhance the mobile offering at Alfresco with its iOS-focused MobileWorkdesk front end.

The purchase comes as the open source company transitions from a founder-led, relatively low-profile business to one that’s eyeing the public market, at least down the road. As part of that change, just two weeks ago Alfresco appointed Doug Dennerline to the top job at the company.

A SaaS-veteran, Dennerline joins Alfresco as it finds itself competing on a new front. In addition to established ECM rivals such as EMC (Documentum), OpenText and, of course, Microsoft’s SharePoint, Alfresco is increasingly bumping into newer cloud-based startups, notably Dropbox and Box.

To combat that, Alfresco has shored up its platform with increased security and compliance to appeal to IT departments, as well as added a cloud offering of its own. Additionally, it has stressed that ECM is part of a larger business process – a function that should be made easier now with the addition of WeWebU’s configuration technology.

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @MAKnowledgebase.

VMware’s new era with Nicira

Contact: Brenon Daly

Having built a business valued in the tens of billions of dollars by virtualizing computing, VMware is now using its largest-ever acquisition in an effort to bring virtualization to networking. VMware will hand over a total of $1.26bn for startup Nicira. It’s a significant gamble for VMware, both strategically and financially.

The purchase is more than three times the size of VMware’s next-largest acquisition, and is roughly equal to the amount the virtualization kingpin has spent on its entire M&A program since parent company EMC spun off a small stake in VMware a half-decade ago. (VMware will cover the cost of the purchase from its treasury. As of the end of June, it held $5.3bn in cash and short-term investments, and it has generated $2bn in free cash flow over the past year.)

VMware has positioned Nicira, a company that only recently emerged from stealth, as a key component of its effort to put software at the core of datacenters. VMware has done that with servers – and to some degree, storage as well – by using software to essentially commodify hardware. It’s an approach that appears to undermine a once-cozy relationship with networking partner Cisco Systems. Incidentally, shares of the switch and router giant are currently at their lowest level in about a year, and it announced another round of layoffs at almost exactly the same time that VMware announced its big networking acquisition.

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @MAKnowledgebase.

EMC buys Syncplicity for mobile file sharing in the enterprise

Contact: Ben Kolada, Simon Robinson

EMC on Tuesday announced that it is taking another swing at backup and file synchronization. However, this time the company is aiming primarily at mobile users in the enterprise. EMC is acquiring four-year-old startup Syncplicity, which provides file-sharing and storage software as a service that enables synchronization to and from computers, mobile devices and online services.

In announcing the acquisition, EMC noted that it chose Syncplicity over the competition because Syncplicity is focused on the enterprise segment, while most other competitors are still targeting consumers. (EMC had previously tried its hand at the consumer backup market. In 2007, it paid $76m for online storage startup Mozy, but has since handed over much of the responsibility for those assets to VMware.) Like so many of its rivals, Syncplicity started in the consumer space but turned its attention toward enterprises in the past year or so. The company now claims about 200,000 users, including roughly 50,000 businesses.

We’d also note that the deal was driven by EMC’s Information Intelligence Group (i.e., Documentum), which makes sense from a collaboration/workflow/app space, but it does have the potential to cause some internal conflicts. For example, the EMC Atmos team is working closely with Oxygen Cloud, and VMware has Horizon/Octopus.

EMC isn’t disclosing terms of the acquisition, but we were recently told that Syncplicity is still in its early days and is nowhere near the size of competitor ShareFile, which sold to Citrix last year. ShareFile had nearly double Syncplicity’s headcount, and generated an estimated $12m in revenue during the year leading up to its sale. Citrix paid $54m for ShareFile, and is now using the target’s technology in its recently updated CloudGateway 2 product for mobile app management and file sharing. We’ll have a longer report on EMC’s Syncplicity buy later this week.

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @MAKnowledgebase.

Google gets discounted Droids

Contact: Brenon Daly

Google didn’t have to reach too deeply to fatten its patent portfolio as it also becomes one of the few vertically integrated smartphone and tablet makers. Sure, it will have to hand over $12.5bn in cash for Motorola Mobility to cover its planned purchase of the hardware manufacturer. But it will immediately get back some $3bn in cash from Motorola Mobility, as well as an undisclosed amount of tax advantages that can be used to lower the amount of taxes that the wildly profitable search giant will face in the future. Even setting aside the very real tax breaks, Google is on the hook for just $9.5bn for Motorola Mobility.

The enterprise value of $9.5bn works out to just 0.75 times the $12.7bn of revenue that Motorola Mobility has generated over the past four quarters. That’s less than half the median valuation (1.8x trailing sales) of all tech transactions announced so far this year, according to our calculations. Further, it’s just one-third the multiple of 2.2x trailing sales that we calculated for the 50 largest deals (by equity value) so far this year.

More relevantly, it’s half a turn less than Hewlett-Packard paid in 2010 to bolster its integrated mobile strategy. Last April, HP paid $1.4bn for Palm Inc in a transaction that valued the struggling company at some 1.1x sales. (And we could certainly make the case that Motorola Mobility is in better financial shape than Palm, which was burning cash amid a dramatic sales slowdown.) Another way to look at it: Google’s bid values Motorola Mobility only slightly above the current market multiple for fellow mobile device vendor Research In Motion. But then, we should add that shares in the Blackberry maker are currently changing hands at their lowest level in a half-decade.

More than just Chatter at salesforce.com

Contact: Ben Kolada, Kathleen Reidy

Fresh from closing its $249m acquisition of Ruby developer Heroku, salesforce.com recently announced, and closed, its purchase of Web-conferencing startup Dimdim for $31m. The Lowell, Massachusetts-based target provided a cloud-based open source Web-conferencing service for businesses, and with this deal salesforce.com now claims 60,000 Chatter users, though with its ‘freemium’ model we suspect that only a fraction of these are paying customers.

Salesforce.com paid $31m in cash for Dimdim, which had raised a total of $8.4m from venture investors Draper Richards, Index Ventures and Nexus Venture Partners. Per salesforce.com’s conference call, Dimdim has 75 employees spread throughout its offices in Lowell and Hyderabad, India. Although the target’s annual revenue wasn’t disclosed, we estimate that it closed 2010 with about $2m in revenue.

Like salesforce.com’s previous collaboration pickup – GroupSwim, in December 2009 – Dimdim’s services will be shut down, and its capabilities will be rolled into Chatter, salesforce.com’s social collaboration software service that first launched in 2009. As my colleague Kathleen Reidy notes (click here to see her full report on the acquisition), as evidenced by the almost immediate shutdown of the Dimdim service, salesforce.com isn’t interested in the pure Web-conferencing market. Salesforce.com will honor contracts with Dimdim’s existing customers, though these will not be eligible for renewal, and it has terminated Dimdim’s free service. Dimdim also had an open source distribution and while this is still available, it won’t see any further updates. Instead, Dimdim will provide features to Chatter, which is also incorporating semantic analysis technology from GroupSwim.

Not pretty, but it’s done at Novell

Contact: Brenon Daly

After holding out for more than eight months, Novell finally accepted on Monday a $2.2bn buyout offer from private equity-backed Attachmate. From the outside, it looks like a case where the buyer – or maybe more accurately, the hedge fund that put the company in play – simply wore down Novell. Under terms, Attachmate will hand over $6.10 in cash per share, or roughly $2.2bn, for Novell.

Yet if we step back and look at the offer, we can’t help but notice that the company is now embracing a bid that only values it slightly more than the original offer that put it in play. For the record, Novell’s board said three weeks after receiving the unsolicited bid from gadfly investor Elliott Associates that the offer of $5.75 for each share ‘undervalues’ the company and its prospects.

Apparently, Elliott’s opening bid wasn’t all that lowball because the company is selling for just 6% more than the offer that ‘undervalued’ it. We would also mention that Novell traded above the $6.10 bid several times over the summer, albeit on pure speculation. (JP Morgan Securities advised Novell, while Credit Suisse Securities and RBC Capital Markets worked for Attachmate.) The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2011, pending shareholder approval.

To be fair, the fact that Novell’s board got shareholders even a slight bump above the original offer should be viewed as a sell-side accomplishment. After all, Novell is a hoary, mixed-bag of businesses, with each unit attracting specific suitors. All of that made for an undoubtedly complicated process, with multiple permutations on bidders and bidding teams, as we understand it. (Companies we heard that may have taken a serious look at some point at Novell – or at least some of its businesses – include VMware and Oracle, among others.) Indeed, as part of the transaction, Microsoft will be acquiring a sprawling portfolio of 882 patents from Novell for $450m.

And beyond all of the complications around matchmaking is the fundamental fact that Novell just isn’t that attractive, regardless of whatever business we look at inside the company. Each component of its revenue (license, maintenance/subscription, services) has dropped so far this year, which is part of the reason why Novell has come up short of Wall Street expectations every quarter this year. Overall, sales have dropped 6% in 2010, and current projections call for Novell’s revenue to decline next year, too. So as we look at it, the board probably did a fair job to get Novell valued at $1.2bn (net of cash), which works out to basically 1.5 times sales. Novell shareholders will now have their say on the outcome of the more than eight-month process.

Making a middleware mini-mammoth

Contact: Brenon Daly, Dennis Callaghan

Imagine combining Informatica and TIBCO Software into a middleware mammoth. Now, shrink the scale by almost 100. Move it from the US to Europe. And make it open source rather than proprietary software. In a roundabout way, that’s what we see in Talend’s recent acquisition of SOPERA. At least in part.

Since its founding in 2005, Talend has focused on offering an open source alternative to Informatica. (As we noted earlier this week, Informatica is a rather rich target. The data-integration vendor currently garners its highest price in a decade, valuing it at roughly 6 times projected 2010 sales.) Talend has enjoyed a good deal of success, doubling revenue last year and likely to finish next year with sales of roughly $50m, according to our understanding.

In addition to its core data integration, Talend also provides a data management suite combining master data management, which it snagged via the acquisition of Amalto Technologies in September 2009, and data quality. Now, it will also be serving up SOPERA’s application integration, where TIBCO is probably the best-known vendor. For its part, SOPERA has a much more modest business than its acquirer, claiming 60 customers, compared to the 1,500 paying customers that Talend has. SOPERA was actually founded inside the IT department of Deutsche Post a decade ago.

Though small, the purchase of SOPERA is nonetheless significant. As my colleague Dennis Callaghan has indicated, Talend now has a more compelling story to tell in open source middleware, especially as more enterprises take advantage of hybrid cloud environments, with applications running in private and public cloud environments that need connectivity and data sharing between them

Any deals to be done in open source content management market?

Contact: Brenon Daly, Kathleen Reidy

Following a massive wave of consolidation that swept through the enterprise content management (ECM) market, the list of significant vendors has basically narrowed to a handful of tech giants. Essentially, it’s just one stand-alone ECM provider with other software companies offering ECM as part of their broader portfolio. All of them have done deals to expand their ECM business, with the collective bill for acquisitions across the sector topping more than $12bn since 2002.

However, all of that activity has been done by – and for – proprietary software firms. In a recent report, my colleague Kathleen Reidy analyzes how M&A might play out for open source content management startups. Granted, the market is still young, with many of the startups still bootstrapped. (Reidy looks at a dozen potential open source content management targets, including their funding and their focus.)

So which startup might be the first to go? We speculate that Alfresco Software could eventually find itself inside a larger company. However, it probably won’t be the company we initially thought it would be. Adobe and Alfresco have a tight relationship, with Adobe embedding an Alfresco repository in its LiveCycle for content services like workflow, indexing and version control. But with Adobe reaching across the Atlantic for Day Software, it probably has all the Web content management technology it needs.

Same old, same old at Novell?

Contact: Brenon Daly

Ever since hedge fund Elliott Associates put Novell in play five months ago, we’ve said that the company was going to be a tough sell. It’s a mixed bag of businesses, both in terms of what those businesses sell and how they perform. (Or rather, how those businesses underperform, as we were reminded by Novell’s warning earlier this week about third-quarter results. If nothing else, that kept alive Novell’s streak – it also came up short in the two quarters leading up to Elliott’s run at the company.)

Undoubtedly, Novell – an underperforming company that nonetheless found its treasury stuffed with more than $1bn of cash – offered an easy target for the gadfly investor. But having that agitation turn into an acquisition is proving much more difficult. (We recently took an in-depth look at Novell, as well as the specific business lines and which suitors might be eyeing them, in a special report.)

While the process initially attracted a number of parties, we understand that there are only three left at the table: a private equity-backed company, a UK-based PE firm and a joint bid between a publicly traded tech company and a buyout shop. It’s not clear that any of the three will actually close a deal for Novell. (The process has already run past two deadlines, we gather.) Without a deal, shares of Novell would be left to trade on the company’s own merits, which probably wouldn’t do much for shareholder value.

Novell timeline

Date Event
March 2, 2010 Elliott Associates launches unsolicited bid of $5.75 per share, or $2bn equity value
March 20, 2010 Novell board rejects Elliott’s bid, retains JP Morgan Securities to explore alternatives

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase