Jul
03
2019
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KKR confirms it has acquired Canadian software company Corel, reportedly for over $1B

Yesterday we broke the news that Corel — the company behind WordPerfect, Corel Draw and a number of other apps, as well as the new owner of Parallels — had itself gotten acquired by KKR. Today, the news is confirmed and official: KKR today announced it has closed the deal, purchasing Corel from private equity firm Vector Capital.

The terms of the acquisition are not being disclosed, but when the first rumors of a deal started to emerge a couple of months ago, the price being reported was over $1 billion.

Corel may not be the first name you think of in the world of apps and software today. Founded in the 1980s as one of the first big software companies to capitalize on the first wave of personal computer ownership, it tried to compete against Microsoft in those early days (unsuccessfully), and has seen a lot of ups and downs, including two retreats from the stock market, an insider trading scandal and patent disputes (and even detentes) with its onetime rival.

But in more recent years it has, under the radar, built itself to be a solid and — in these days of startups that claim to intentionally operate at a loss for years in order to scale — profitable business with 90 million users. (Vector said in the past that Corel had paid dividends of $300 million over the years it owned the company.)

Founded in the days when you went to electronics store and bought physical boxes of software with installation disks and hefty manuals, Corel has brought itself into the modern era, with acquisitions like Parallels — a virtualization giant that lets businesses run far-flung and very fragmented networks as if they weren’t — underscoring that strategy.

And that is where KKR appears to be putting its focus. In the memo that a source passed us yesterday, Corel’s CEO Patrick Nichols assured staff that there would be no layoffs and that this acquisition would mean a significant new infusion of capital both to expand its existing business as well as to make more acquisitions to grow. (As we pointed out yesterday, there are a lot of very promising software startups in the market today, and not all of them will scale on their own, so that could present interesting opportunities for companies like Corel.)

“Corel has differentiated itself by offering an impressive portfolio of essential tools and services for connected knowledge workers – across devices, operating systems, and a range of fast-growing industries. KKR looks forward to working together with management to drive continued growth across its existing platforms while leveraging the team’s extensive experience in M&A to deliver a new chapter of innovation and growth on a global scale,” said John Park, member at KKR, in a statement.

That’s not to say that Corel does not have a specific strategy in mind. The company has apps and services today in three verticals serving consumers (mostly “prosumers”) and so-called knowledge workers: Creativity, Productivity and Desktop-as-a-Service. That will likely be the trajectory that it will continue to pursue as it looks for more growth.

Although Vector is known as a tech investor, KKR is another step up in to the “bigger” leagues, and so it will be interesting to see what Corel can do with the larger coffers, and the larger network of contacts, that KKR will bring to the table.

“KKR recognizes the value of our people and their impressive achievements, especially in terms of our commitment to customers, technology innovation, and our highly successful acquisition strategy. With KKR’s support and shared vision, our management team is excited by the opportunities ahead for our company, products, and users,” Nichols said in a statement.

If reports of the acquisition price are accurate, that would represent a big premium to Vector: over the last 16 years the PE firm had acquired, taken public and reacquired Corel, paying no more than $124 million for the company in those two acquisitions (the second time it paid just $30 million).

“Corel has been an important part of the Vector Capital family for many years and we are pleased to have achieved a fantastic outcome for our investors with the sale to KKR,” said Alex Slusky, Vector Capital’s founder and chief investment officer, in a statement. “Under Vector’s ownership, Corel completed multiple transformative acquisitions, grew revenue and meaningfully improved profitability, highlighting Vector’s proven strategy of partnering with management teams to position companies for long-term success.  We are confident the company has found a great partner with KKR and wish them continued success together.”

Jul
02
2019
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KKR has acquired Corel (including its recent acquisition Parallels), reportedly for $1B+

Only six months after snapping up virtualization specialist Parallels, Canadian software company Corel is itself getting acquired. TechCrunch has learned and confirmed with multiple sources that private equity giant KKR has closed a deal to buy the company from Vector Capital, which has owned some or all of Corel since 2003.

KKR’s interest in Corel was first rumored in May, when PE Hub reported the two were in talks for a sale valued at over $1 billion. At the time, representatives of Corel declined to comment, although our sources inside the company indicated that the reports were not inaccurate.

Fast-forward to today, and both KKR and and a spokesperson for Parallels/Corel declined to comment. But, we now have a copy of the memo provided by an internal source that has been sent out to staff announcing that the deal has indeed closed, and that Corel is now officially part of the KKR family of companies.

According to the memo, KKR is very optimistic about Corel’s prospects. It plans to give Corel an “infusion of capital” to accelerate its growth, which will go into two areas. First will be expanding operations for the existing business: Corel is the company behind a number of longstanding software brands including WordPerfect, Corel Draw, WinZip, PaintShop Pro. Second will be making acquisitions (and the sheer proliferation of promising startups in the last decade dedicated to all variety of apps and other software that may have found it a challenge to scale means Corel could have rich pickings).

There are no layoffs planned as part of the deal, and the official announcement had been planned to go out next week, but now looks like it may be moved up to tomorrow (Wednesday).

Vector and Corel itself have never publicly disclosed much on user numbers or financials, but Vector has described the company as “highly profitable,” with dividends of more than $300 million to date. The memo we’ve seen notes that Corel (including Parallels) has millions of customers across its various software platforms and apps.

The acquisition of Corel by KKR marks another chapter in the company’s long corporate history.

Founded in the 1980s — when personal computers were just starting to enter the mainstream but well before we had anything like the internet (not to mention the world of cloud-based apps) that we know today — Corel once positioned itself as a potential competitor to Microsoft in the software wars.

When Corel purchased WordPerfect from Novel in 1996, Corel founder Michael Cowpland viewed the software package as an integral part of that rivalry, describing it as the Pepsi to Microsoft’s Coke — that is, Word.

Microsoft proved the mightier of the two, and it even eventually signed a partnership with Corel that saw it investing in the company: a sell out, as one disappointed Canadian journalist described it at the time. The two have also sparred over patents.

Corel, which went public early in its life, got battered in the first dot-com bust (which was not helped by an insider trading scandal that led to Cowpland’s departure). Vector stepped in and took it private in 2003.

After restructuring the company, Vector listed Corel again in 2006. But, amid another recession that again hit Corel hard, it once more took it private in 2010. In the intervening years, Corel has been focused on modernising its offerings, bringing in e-commerce, direct downloads, subscriptions and acquisitions to bring the company’s products and wider business closer to how consumers and workers use computers today.

Parallels was a part of that strategy: its products help people work seamlessly across multiple platforms, letting employees (and IT managers) run a unified workflow regardless of the device or operating system, with Parallels providing support for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Chromebook, Linux, Raspberry Pi and cloud — a timely offering in the current, fragmented IT market.

If the $1 billion+ figure is accurate, that strategy seems to have worked: across the two times that Vector took Corel private, it never paid more than $124 million for the company (the second time, as its stock was tanking, it paid just $30 million).

Nov
27
2018
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Canada’s Corel is acquiring virtualization specialist Parallels in an all-cash deal

Some consolidation is afoot in the world of business software. TechCrunch has learned that Parallels, the virtualization specialist with millions of users, is getting acquired by Corel, the Canadian company behind design apps like CorelDraw and other productivity apps like WordPerfect.

Some employees at Parallels have already been briefed on the acquisition, which is expected to be announced to the whole company today. Terms have not been disclosed but we understand it is an all-cash deal.

Corel has changed ownership and gone in and out of being listed publicly a number of times since being founded in the 1980s in Ottawa. It’s now owned by Vector Capital, which is essentially the one buying Parallels.

From what we understand, Corel will keep Parallels an independent product.

Parallels was originally founded in 1999 with roots in Russia and is currently headquartered in Bellevue, Washington. It has never made much of a fanfare around its financing or valuation. According to PitchBook its last funding round was in 2015, an undisclosed amount from Endeavour Vision, KG Investments, Maxfield Capital, Savano Capital Partners and others. It had raised $300 million from Ingram Micro the year before that.

It’s not fully clear what the rationale was for the sale, except it seems many investors were longstanding and looking to exit, while Corel has slowly been consolidating a number of sodtware businesses, most recently before this, Gravit Designer from Germany earlier this year.

Parallels provides a number of products that help people work seamlessly across multiple platforms, essentially letting people (and IT managers) run a unified workflow regardless of the device or operating system, ranging from Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Chromebook, Linux, Raspberry Pi and cloud — a particularly compelling offering in the current, fragmented IT climate.

Corel once had designs to take on Microsoft in the world of software — to be the Pepsi to Microsoft’s Coke, as I once saw it described. That didn’t really pan out, with Microsoft at the time having a vice grip on platform and software (this was before the rise of Google, the rebirth of Apple, the rise of apps, and other big shifts in the industry). At one point, Microsoft signed a partnership with Corel that saw it investing in the company: a sell out, as one disappointed Canadian journalist described it at the time.

The two have also sparred over patents.

These days Corel is “highly profitable”, says Vector, selling software that includes CorelDraw, WordPerfect, WinZip, PaintShop Pro, and WinDVD. You could potentially imagine Parallels existing alongside that, or even perhaps helping increase the functionality and usefulness of Corel’s other apps with more cross-platform functionality.

The Parallels deal is expected to close next year, our source said.

We have written both to Corel and Parallels and will update this post as we learn more.

There have been a number of enterprise software acquisitions with a view to legacy businesses raising their game in open source, cloud and other newer developments. The most notable of these has been IBM announcing its intent to acquire Red Hat for $34 billion in October.

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