by Brenon Daly
CA Technologies just reported what’s likely to be its next-to-last financial results as a public company, and the numbers don’t add up. We’re not referring to anything about the specific bookkeeping at CA, which has long since distanced itself from the time when the ‘CA’ was said to stand for ‘Creative Accounting,’ with ’35-day months’ and the like.
Instead, our assessment of CA’s financial performance is based on the targets that its soon-to-be owner Broadcom has set for the combined company once the largest-ever software transaction closes later this year. In fact, it looks increasingly inescapable that the only way they get there from here is to shed a bunch of CA’s businesses.
Recall that the chip giant (rather inexplicably) turned its consolidation machine to the software industry, paying $19bn for CA in mid-July. As part of that blockbuster purchase, Broadcom laid out the goal of ‘long-term adjusted EBITDA margins’ above 55% for the combined company. Of course, the phrasing gives Broadcom plenty of wiggle room. ‘Long-term’ can mean a wide range of time, while ‘adjusted EBITDA’ is basically a fictitious financial measure that excludes many of the true costs of doing business.
But even setting aside our unfashionable quibbles around accounting, Broadcom’s margin goal looks like a stretch for CA, at least in its current form. On Monday, the company reported its overall financial performance for its just-completed quarter, and it’s pretty clear there are businesses inside of CA that will appeal to Broadcom and those that may not make the cut. CA’s financial results highlight the vast financial differences between its mature, cash-rich mainframe business and the other lines of more growth-oriented software that it has picked up over the course of a roughly 30-year M&A career.
CA’s two main businesses are nearly the same size, but the mainframe division runs at a 67% operating margin – more than 4x the operating margin posted by its enterprise software division. For the company’s full fiscal year, which ended in March, the enterprise software unit put up $1.7bn in revenue but only $151m in operating income. The tiny margin in CA’s enterprise software business, which contrasts with its richly profitable mainframe division, won’t help Broadcom hit its projected EBITDA targets, no matter how many ‘adjustments’ are made. In fact, the division stands in the way.
That reality won’t be lost on Broadcom, which had collected a bullish following on Wall Street for its reputation as a sharp financial operator. Nor will the fact that most other hardware vendors (including HPE, Dell and fellow chipmaker Intel) that have acquired their way into the software industry have eventually unwound many of their purchases. CA’s enterprise software division sells software in numerous markets, including identity and access management, application development, and security and IT operations management. For Broadcom to reestablish credibility among skeptical investors and hit the targets for the combined company, it is almost certain to divest some of those CA units.
For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @451TechMnA.