Nov
12
2018
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Enterprise shopping season starts early with almost $50B in recent deals

Black Friday may still be 10 days away, but shopping season started early in the enterprise this year. We have seen acquisitions totaling almost $50 billion in the last couple of months alone, topped by the mega $34 billion IBM-Red Hat deal two weeks ago. What exactly is going on here?

While not every deal has been for that kind of money, we are seeing an unusually large number of mega deals this year, something that some folks were predicting would happen when the big tech companies were allowed to repatriate their money as part of last year’s tax deal.

Let’s look at some of the multi-billion deals we have seen so far this year:

Supply and demand

Big companies are opening their checkbooks in a big way right now, buying everything from marketing to analytics to security companies. They are grabbing open source and proprietary. They are looking at ways to bridge the cloud and on-prem. There is a whole host of software and not much rhyme or reason across the deals.

What they have in common is that they are enormous offers that are simply too huge to refuse. These companies flush with cash see opportunities to fill holes, and they are going for one piece after another.

One of the reasons the prices are going so high is that there is a limited number of companies available to buy, and that is driving up the price, says Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research. As he sees it, there are only 3-5 decent players per category right now. He compares that with 10 years ago when we were seeing 10-15 players per category. With a limited number of viable startups, companies seem to be going after these companies harder. Combine that with fat wallets full of cash, and you suddenly have this wave of super-sized deals.

The companies being acquired by large organizations can justify selling in the usual ways. They can reward shareholders and investors. These larger organizations allow them to push their product roadmaps much more quickly than they could on their own. They give them access to international markets and mega sales teams.

Buy versus build

Still, companies have been spending unusually large sums for relatively small amounts of revenue. In deals over the last three weeks, we have seen IBM pay $34 billion for a company with around $3 billion in revenue. We saw SAP paying $8 billion for a mere $400 million in revenue.

This certainly seems on its face to be a massive overpay, but Constellation’s Wang says ultimately this often comes down to a classic build versus buy decision. SAP could build a similar product to Qualtrics, or they could simply buy it and put the massive SAP salesforce to bear on it. “SAP can sell into 100,000 customers. They only have a 10 percent overlap with Qualtrics. The numbers work, and it beats taking a new product to market,” Wang told TechCrunch.

Wang believes this could be the strategy behind many of these acquisitions, while admitting that the numbers sound a bit crazy. As he says, the formula used to be three times, three years trailing revenues. Now it’s 15-20 times. While those may be hard numbers to justify, he believes it’s a win-win for buyer and acquired — and investors win big too, of course.

Staying the course

In many instances like Red Hat, GitHub and Qualtrics, the companies will likely remain separate, independent units inside the larger organization, at least for the time being, while looking for meaningful crossover inside the larger company when it makes sense.

But Tony Byrne, founder and principal analyst at Real Story Group, says these large companies tend to listen to Wall Street, and customers should be wary of what they hear when it comes to their favorite products and services. “You cannot trust the initial pleasantries about continuity that come out of the first press release. These are huge vendors that listen first and foremost to Wall Street. If there’s an offering that doesn’t totally align with their story to investors, it is not going to get much love and is at risk for getting eliminated or calved off,” Byrne explained.

It’s also hard to know how well two companies are going to fit together until the deal actually closes. Sometimes the acquiring company doesn’t know what they have or how to sell it. Sometimes the two companies don’t fit well together or the founders or key executives don’t fit smoothly into the new hierarchy. They try to figure this all out beforehand, but it’s not always easy to know how it will play out in reality.

Regardless, we are seeing an unusually high level of massive acquisitions, and chances are, there are more coming.

Nov
12
2018
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Kofax to buy Nuance’s imaging division for $400M in cash

Some consolidation and subsequent divestment are in play in the worlds of imaging and voice recognition. Today, Kofax and Nuance announced that Kofax would be acquiring Nuance’s imaging division, for $400 million in cash. The deal, which had been rumoured in recent days, is expected to close in Q1 2019.

The acquisition is a notable move for Kofax — itself acquired by Thoma Bravo last year in a $1.5 billion deal — as it continues to build up its business in Robotic Process Automation (RPA), the area of enterprise IT services that uses machine learning, computer vision and other AI-based tools to bring automation to repetitive or mundane back-office tasks that would have in the past been done by humans. (The idea is that this frees up the humans to make more sophisticated assessments in specific cases, or focus on entirely different tasks.)

On the side of Nuance, the company is a leader in voice recognition services that served as an early partner to the likes of Apple with Siri, and has also worked on a number of other AI-based solutions to improve how enterprises build services and work.

Publicly traded Nuance’s imaging division accounted for about 11 percent of its revenues last year, and it has stated would be making several changes in its business to rationalise it and focus on more profitable operations. The biggest parts of its $5 billion business today are healthcare solutions, enterprise and automotive.

Kofax is bringing on Nuance Document Imaging, as the division is officially called, specifically to bring more services in the area of imaging services, which include services like providing security and compliance around any image scanning or printing that takes place across an organization. NDI, Kofax said, is one of the biggest companies of its kind in the field, covering 6 million knowledge workers and over 100,000 active deployments of its Print Management solutions.

“Through the acquisition of Nuance’s document imaging division, Kofax will drive customer value by adding key technologies, including cloud compatibility, scan-to-archive, scan-to-workflow, print management and document security, to our end-to-end Intelligent Automation platform,” said Reynolds C. Bish, Chief Executive Officer of Kofax. “In addition we will now be able to combine the best capture and print management capabilities available in the market into one product portfolio.”

Kofax said this makes it the leader in this area globally: and indeed it is racing to keep ahead of competition.

RPA has been one of the fastest-growing areas in IT, fueled by the rising interest in bringing more AI into enterprise services. UiPath, one of the leading startups in the space, has raised close to $400 million in two separate rounds this year on the back of its rapid growth. Just last week, UiPath just last week expanded its own imaging capabilities.

Nov
12
2018
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Vista snaps up Apptio for $1.94B, as enterprise companies remain hot

It seems that Sunday has become a popular day to announce large deals involving enterprise companies. IBM announced the $34 billion Red Hat deal two weeks ago. SAP announced its intent to buy Qualtrics for $8 billion last night, and Vista Equity Partners got into the act too, announcing a deal to buy Apptio for $1.94 billion, representing a 53 percent premium for stockholders.

Vista paid $38 per share for Apptio, a Seattle company that helps companies manage and understand their cloud spending inside a hybrid IT environment that has assets on-prem and in the cloud. The company was founded in 2007 right as the cloud was beginning to take off, and grew as the cloud did. It recognized that companies would have trouble understanding their cloud assets along side on-prem ones. It turned out to be a company in the right place at the right time with the right idea.

Investors like Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock and Madrona certainly liked the concept, showering the company with $261 million before it went public in 2016. The stock price has been up and down since, peaking in August at $41.23 a share before dropping down to $24.85 on Friday. The $38 a share Vista paid comes close to the high water mark for the stock.

Stock Chart: Google

Sunny Gupta, co-founder and CEO at Apptio liked the idea of giving his shareholders a good return while providing a good landing spot to take his company private. Vista has a reputation for continuing to invest in the companies it acquires and that prospect clearly excited him. “Vista’s investment and deep expertise in growing world-class SaaS businesses and the flexibility we will have as a private company will help us accelerate our growth…,” Gupta said in a statement.

The deal was approved by Apptio’s board of directors, which will recommend shareholders accept it. With such a high premium, it’s hard to imagine them turning it down. If it passes all of the regulatory hurdles, the acquisition is expected to close in Q1 2019.

It’s worth noting that the company has a 30-day “go shop” provision, which would allow it to look for a better price. Given how hot the enterprise market is right now and how popular hybrid cloud tools are, it is possible it could find another buyer, but it could be hard to find one willing to pay such a high premium.

Vista clearly likes to buy enterprise tech companies having snagged Ping Identity for $600 million and Marketo for $1.8 billion in 2016. It grabbed Jamf, an Apple enterprise device management company and Datto, a disaster recovery company last year. It turned Marketo around for $4.75 billion in a deal with Adobe just two months ago.

Oct
29
2018
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Assessing IBM’s $34 billion Red Hat acquisition

As you look at the $34 billion IBM-Red Hat deal announced yesterday, if you follow the enterprise closely, it seems like a good move, at least on its face. It could be years before we understand the true value of it for IBM (or lack thereof, depending on how it ultimately goes). The questions stands then, is this a savvy move, a desperate one or perhaps a bit of both. It turns out, it depends on whom you ask.

For starters, there is the sheer amount of money involved, a 63 percent premium on Friday’s closing price of just under $117 a share. IBM spent $190 a share, but as Ray Wang, founder and chief analyst at Constellation Research said, Red Hat didn’t necessarily want to be sold, so IBM had to overpay to get their company.

Wang sees cloud, Linux and security as the big drivers on IBM’s part. “IBM is doubling down on the cloud, but they also are going for a grab in Linux for their largest and most important open source communities and some of the newer tech on Red Hat security,” he told TechCrunch. He acknowledges that it’s a huge premium for the stock, but he believes IBM needs the M&A action to drive down customer acquisition costs and drive up cross sell.

Photo: Ron Miller

IBM is placing a big bet here says Dharmesh Thakker, general partner at Battery Ventures, believing it to be worth 30x its current earnings in the next 12 months. “Needless to say, the hybrid cloud opportunity that we have been working on the last few years, is real and IBM/Cisco/HP/Dell all want a piece of this action going forward as the $300B in datacenter spend gets dislocated by public and hybrid cloud vendors,” Thakker explained in a statement.

He believes this deal could actually trigger a new set of mega mergers between the traditional tech vendors and cloud native, container and DevOps companies over the next few months.

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty was positively giddy at the prospects of a combined IBM-Red Hat in a call with analysts and press this morning, pointing out that only 20 percent of enterprise workloads have been moved to the cloud. She sees a big opportunity, one she projects to be worth $1 trillion by 2020. Keeping in mind you should take market projections with a grain of salt, this is undoubtedly a big market and one that Oracle and Microsoft have also targeted.

She said that Red Hat was a rare company indeed. “Red Hat on its own has been a high value company and has done a great job with strong growth, is highly profitable and generates cash. There are not many companies out there that look like that in this area,” Rometty said.

Slide: IBM

Dan Scholnick, general partner at Trinity Ventures, whose investments have included New Relic and Docker, was not terribly impressed with the deal, believing it smacked of desperation on IBM’s part.

“IBM is a declining business that somehow needs to become relevant in the cloud era. Red Hat is not the answer. Red Hat’s business centers around an operating system, which is a layer of the technology stack that has been completely commoditized by cloud. (If you use AWS, you can get Amazon’s OS for free, so why would you pay Red Hat?) Red Hat has NO story for cloud,” he claimed in a statement.

That might not be an entirely fair assessment. While Red Hat Enterprise Linux is a big part of the company’s revenue, it’s not the only piece. Over the last couple of years it has moved into Kubernetes and containerization and has grown the cloud native side of the business alongside RHEL.

In fact, Forrester analyst Dave Bartoletti sees the cloud native piece as being key here. “The combined company has a leading Kubernetes and container-based cloud-native development platform, and a much broader open source middleware and developer tools portfolio than either company separately. While any acquisition of this size will take time to play out, the combined company will be sure to reshape the open source and cloud platforms market for years to come,” he said.

Photo: IBM

Wang believes the deal could hinge on how long Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst, who had led the company for over a decade, stays with the unit. According to IBM, they will maintain the Red Hat brand and operate it as an independent entity inside Big Blue. “If Whitehurst doesn’t stick around for awhile, the deal could go south,” he said. But the company could dangle the CEO job when Rometty decides to leave as incentive to stay.

Regardless, Wall Street was not entirely happy with IBM’s move with their stock down all day. Needless to say the 63 percent premium IBM paid for the stock has driven Red Hat higher today.

The deal must pass shareholder muster, but given the premium IBM has offered, it’s hard to believe they would turn it down. In addition, since these companies operate across the world, they are subject to the global regulatory approval process. They won’t officially come together until at least the second half of next year at the soonest. That’s when we might begin to learn whether this was a brilliant or desperate move by IBM.

Oct
29
2018
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Atlassian sells Jitsi, an open-source videoconferencing tool it acquired in 2015, to 8×8

After announcing earlier this year that it planned to shut down HipChat and Stride and sell the IP of both to Slack, today enterprise software company Atlassian made another move related to its retreat from enterprise chat. It is selling Jitsi, a popular open-source chat and videoconferencing tool, to 8X8, a provider of cloud-based business phone and internal communications services. 8X8 says it plans to integrate Jitsi with its current conferencing solutions, specifically a product called 8X8 Meetings, and to keep it open source.

Terms of this latest sale to 8×8 have not been disclosed. Both the tech and the engineering team working on Jitsi, led by Emil Ivov, are coming with the acquisition.

Atlassian originally acquired Jitsi and its owner BlueJimp for an undisclosed sum in 2015 with the intention of adding video communications to HipChat, and later Stride (which launched in 2017).

But now those two products are headed for the graveyard — they are both being discontinued on February 15, 2019 — and that made Jitsi less core to Atlassian’s new direction, where it is focusing less on enterprise chat, and more on tools for developers and customer care, including Jira, Trello, and Bitbucket (a competitor to GitHub).

The deal is one of the final moves for Atlassian as it focuses more on its business building and operating productivity tools that are not direct competitors in the crowded field of enterprise chat applications. It seems that in any case, Jitsi is hoping for more investment under its new owner.

“This is a great thing and will only help to keep Jitsi’s momentum with renewed investment,” writes Ivov in a blog post announcing the news. “The Jitsi team will remain 100 percent intact and will continue to be an independent group. Operationally things will work much the same way as they did under Atlassian. Jitsi users and developers won’t see any impact, though we do expect with continued funding and support you will see even more new features and capabilities from the project!”

Technology in the acquisition includes Jitsi’s modular open-source projects for businesses to build and deploy secure video communication solutions based around WebRTC; the Jitsi Videobridge conferencing server; and the Jitsi Meet conferencing and collaboration application.

“The best video communications solutions are so intuitive and reliable that they help employees conduct shorter, more productive meetings. 8×8 has already developed a world-class meetings solution for enterprises, and we’re focused on maintaining leadership in delivering reliable, crystal-clear video and audio conferencing quality across mobile and desktop applications,” said Dejan Deklich, Chief Product Officer at 8×8, in a statement. “Incorporating Jitsi’s open-source technology into our video communications technology platform, and having Jitsi’s talented engineering team play a role in leading our development of dedicated conferencing applications and WebRTC, will open new paths for our customers and further enhance our meetings solution.”

Jitsi’s tools are used by a variety of platforms and businesses that want to include videoconferencing but would rather use an independent third-party service rather than incorporate one from a would-be competitor or build it themselves. Customers include Comcast and Symphony, the chat app used by the financial services industry.

“Some of the most innovative WebRTC products and companies use Jitsi to support millions of minutes of daily usage as part of their meetings, messaging and collaboration product ecosystems. The open source community has played a critical role in advancing Jitsi’s projects by validating its use in a diverse set of environments and complementing the core team’s development. As part of this acquisition, 8×8 is committed to continuing to support the growing developer community, and we are excited to engage even more,” commented Bryan Martin, Chairman and Chief Technology Officer at 8×8.

This past weekend’s big news of IBM acquiring Red Hat for $34 million has emphasised just how central open source and cloud-based software are in today’s enterprise IT market. This purchase is far smaller, but is also part of that bigger trend.

“8×8 sees tremendous value in the open source community and is committed to helping grow the community even larger,” Ivov notes. “With a major, high-motivated backer like 8×8 behind the project, we are confident about our ability to continue building great open source products.”

Oct
29
2018
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IBM is betting the farm on Red Hat — and it better not mess up

Who expects a $34 billion deal involving two enterprise powerhouses to drop on a Sunday afternoon, but IBM and Red Hat surprised us yesterday when they pulled the trigger on a historically large deal.

IBM has been a poster child for a company moving through a painful transformation. As Box CEO (and IBM business partner) Aaron Levie put it on Twitter, sometimes a company has to make a bold move to push that kind of initiative forward:

They believe they can take their complex mix of infrastructure/software/platform services and emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, blockchain and analytics, and blend all of that with Red Hat’s profitable fusion of enterprise open source tools, cloud native, hybrid cloud and a keen understanding of the enterprise.

As Jon Shieber pointed out yesterday, it was a tacit acknowledgement that company was not going to get the results it was hoping for with emerging technologies like Watson artificial intelligence. It needed something that translated more directly into sales.

Red Hat can be that enterprise sales engine. It already is a company on a $3 billion revenue run rate, and it has a goal of hitting $5 billion. While that’s somewhat small potatoes for a company like IBM that generates $19 billion a quarter, it represents a crucial addition.

That’s because in spite of its iffy earnings reports over the last five years, Synergy Research reported that IBM had 7 percent of the cloud infrastructure market in its most recent report, which it defines as Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service and hosted private cloud. It is the latter that IBM is particularly good at.

The company has the pieces in place now and a decent amount of marketshare, but Red Hat gives it a much more solid hybrid cloud story to tell. They can potentially bridge that hosted private cloud business with their own public cloud (and presumably even those of their competitors) and use Red Hat as a cloud native and open source springboard, giving their sales teams a solid story to tell.

IBM already has a lot of enterprise credibility on its own, of course. It sells on top of many of the same open source tools as Red Hat, but it hasn’t been getting the sales and revenue momentum that Red Hat has enjoyed. If you combine the enormous IBM sales engine and their services business with that of Red Hat, you have the potential to crank this into a huge business.

Photo: Ron Mller

It’s worth noting that the deal needs to pass shareholder muster and clear global regulatory hurdles before they can combine the two organizations. IBM has predicted that it will take at least until the second half of next year to close this deal and it could take even longer.

IBM has to use that time wisely and well to make sure when they pull the trigger, these two companies blend as smoothly as possible across technology and culture. It’s never easy to make these mega deals work with so much money and pressure involved, but it is imperative that Big Blue not screw this up. This could very well represent its last best chance to right the ship once and for all.

Oct
15
2018
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Twilio acquires email API platform SendGrid for $2 billion in stock

Twilio, the ubiquitous communications platform, today announced its plan to acquire the API-centric email platform SendGrid for about $2 billion in an all-stock transaction. That’s Twilio’s largest acquisition to date, but also one that makes a lot of sense given that both companies aim to make building communications platforms easier for developers.

“The two companies share the same vision, the same model, and the same values,” said Twilio co-founder and CEO Jeff Lawson in today’s announcement. “We believe this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring together the two leading developer-focused communications platforms to create the unquestioned platform of choice for all companies looking to transform their customer engagement.”

SendGrid will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Twilio and its common stock will be converted into Twilio stock. The companies expect the acquisition to close in the first half of 2019, after it has been cleared by the authorities.

Twilio’s current focus is on omnichannel communication, and email is obviously a major part of that. And while it offers plenty of services around voice, video and chat, email hasn’t been on its radar in the same way. This acquisition now allows it to quickly build up expertise in this area and expand its services there.

SendGrid went public in 2017. At the time, it priced its stock at $16. Today, before the announcement, the company was trading at just under $31, though that price obviously spiked after the announcement went public. That’s still down from a high of more than $36.5 last month, but that’s in line with the overall movement of the market in recent weeks.

Today’s announcement comes shortly before Twilio’s annual developer conference, so I expect we’ll hear a lot more about its plans for SendGrid later this week.

We asked Twilio for more details about its plans for SendGrid after the acquisition closes. We’ll update this post once we hear more.

Oct
03
2018
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Palo Alto Networks to acquire RedLock for $173 M to beef up cloud security

Palo Alto Networks launched in 2005 in the age of firewalls. As we all know by now, the enterprise expanded beyond the cozy confines of a firewall long ago and vendors like Palo Alto have moved to securing data in the cloud now too. To that end, the company announced its intent to pay $173 million for RedLock today, an early-stage startup that helps companies make sure their cloud instances are locked down and secure.

The cloud vendors take responsibility for securing their own infrastructure, and for the most part the major vendors have done a decent job. What they can’t do is save their customers from themselves and that’s where a company like RedLock comes in.

As we’ve seen time and again, data has been exposed in cloud storage services like Amazon S3, not through any fault of Amazon itself, but because a faulty configuration has left the data exposed to the open internet. RedLock watches configurations like this and warns companies when something looks amiss.

When the company emerged from stealth just a year ago, Varun Badhwar, company founder and CEO told TechCrunch that this is part of Amazon’s shared responsibility model. “They have diagrams where they have responsibility to secure physical infrastructure, but ultimately it’s the customer’s responsibility to secure the content, applications and firewall settings,” Badhwar told TechCrunch last year.

Badhwar speaking in a video interview about the acquisition says they have been focused on helping developers build cloud applications safely and securely, whether that’s Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud Platform. “We think about [RedLock] as guardrails or as bumper lanes in a bowling alley and just not letting somebody get that gutter ball and from a security standpoint, just making sure we don’t deviate from the best practices,” he explained.

“We built a technology platform that’s entirely cloud-based and very quick time to value since customers can just turn it on through API’s, and we love to shine the light and show our customers how to safely move into public cloud,” he added.

The acquisition will also fit nicely with Evident.io, a cloud infrastructure security startup, the company acquired in March for $300 million. Badhwar believes that customers will benefit from Evident’s compliance capabilities being combined with Red Lock’s analytics capabilities to provide a more complete cloud security solution.

RedLock launched in 2015 and has raised $12 million. The $173 million purchase would appear to be a great return for the investors who put their faith in the startup.

Sep
20
2018
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Adobe gets its company, snaring Marketo for $4.75 billion

A week ago rumors were flying that Adobe would be buying Marketo, and lo and behold it announced today that it was acquiring the marketing automation company for $4.75 billion.

It was a pretty nice return for Vista Equity partners, which purchased Marketo in May 2016 for $1.8 billion in cash. They held onto it for two years and hauled in a hefty $2.95 billion in profit.

We published a story last week, speculating that such a deal would make sense for Adobe, which just bought Magento in May for $1.6 billion. The deal gives Adobe a strong position in enterprise marketing as it competes with Salesforce, Microsoft, Oracle and SAP. Put together with Magento, it gives them marketing and ecommerce, and all it cost was over $6 billion to get there.

“The acquisition of Marketo widens Adobe’s lead in customer experience across B2C and B2B and puts Adobe Experience Cloud at the heart of all marketing,” Brad Rencher, executive vice president and general manager, Digital Experience at Adobe said in a statement.

Ray Wang, principal analyst and founder at Constellation Research sees it as a way for Adobe to compete harder with Salesforce in this space. “If Adobe takes a stand on Marketo, it means they are serious about B2B and furthering the Microsoft-Adobe vs Salesforce-Google battle ahead,” he told TechCrunch. He’s referring to the deepening relationships between these companies.

Brent Leary, senior analyst and founder at CRM Essentials agrees, seeing Microsoft as also getting positive results from this deal. “This is not only a big deal for Adobe, but another potential winner with this one is Microsoft due to the two companies growing partnership,” he said.

Adobe reported its earnings last Thursday announcing $2.29 billion for the third quarter, which represented a 24 percent year over year increase and a new record for the company. While Adobe is well on its way to being a $10 billion company, the majority of its income continues to come from Creative Cloud, which includes Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator, among other Adobe software stalwarts.

But for a long time, the company has wanted to be much more than a creative software company. It’s wanted a piece of the enterprise marketing pie. Up until now, that part of the company, which includes marketing and analytics software, has lagged well behind the Creative Cloud business. In its last report, Digital Experience revenue, which is where Adobe counts this revenue represented $614 million of total revenue. While it continues to grow, up 21 percent year over year, there is much greater potential here for more.

Adobe had less than $5 billion in cash after the Mageno acquisition, but it has seen its stock price rise dramatically in the last year rising from $149.96 last year at this time to $266.05 as of publication.

The acquisition comes as there is a lot of maneuvering going on this space and the various giant companies vie for market share. Today’s acquisition gives Adobe a huge boost and provides them with not only a missing piece, but Marketo’s base of 5000 customers and the opportunity to increase revenue in this part of their catalogue, while allowing them to compete harder inside the enterprise.

The deal is expected to close in Adobe’s 4th quarter. Marketo CEO Steve Lucas will join Adobe’s senior leadership team and report to Rencher.

It’s also worth noting that the announcement comes just days before Dreamforce, Salesforce’s massive customer conference will be taking place in San Francisco, and Microsoft will be holding its Ignite conference in Orlando. While the timing may be coincidental, it does end up stealing some of their competitors’ thunder.

Sep
13
2018
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Why rumors that Adobe could be in talks to buy Marketo make sense

Adobe could be shopping for another piece of the digital marketing puzzle, as reports surfaced today that the company might be in talks with Vista Equity Partners to buy Marketo, a company the private equity firm purchased in May 2016 for $1.8 billion in cash. Reuters was first to report the rumor.

While the report states the talks are early, and nothing is imminent, and none of the companies involved would comment (understandably), it is a deal that makes sense for Adobe. The company has been trying to build out its digital marketing business for some time, including buying Magento in May for $1.8 billion to help beef up the ecommerce piece.

Assuming that Vista wants to flip Marketo for a profit, a good bet, it would likely need to come in at $2 billion at a minimum and probably more. There are only a few companies out there that could afford the price tag, who would be interested in a property like Marketo: Adobe, Salesforce, Microsoft, SAP and Oracle.

If Adobe really wanted to go for the digital marketing jugular, it could fork over the cash and buy Marketo. Brent Leary, who covers this industry as the principle at CRM Essentials, says this would be a way for Adobe to grab a chunk of enterprise marketing automation business at a time when the market is getting highly competitive.

“Marketo would give Adobe a leader in the marketing automation space at the enterprise customer level, particularly in the B2B space.” Leary explained.

While nothing is clear yet, Adobe has the resources if it wants to do it. The company currently has $6.3 billion in cash on hand, according to data on Yahoo finance, and has seen its stock price rise significantly in the last year from $156.24 to $269.58 (as of publication today).

 

Adobe Creative Cloud has always been the primary money maker for Adobe over the years, generating $1.3 billion in the last report (pdf) in June out of $2.2 billion in total revenue. Digital Experience, which includes marketing products, generated $586 million, and although it’s trending up, it has so much more potential.

We have been seeing more M&A action in this space as companies try to fill in various parts of the sale-service-marketing triumvirate. Just last week, we saw Zendesk, the company that concentrates on cloud customer service, enter the sales automation and CRM part of the space with the purchase of Base. Earlier this month, Thoma Bravo bought Apttus, a company which covers the quote-to-cash part of the sales cycle.

Adobe finds itself competing with other giant organizations with the previously mentioned companies all lining up for a piece of the digital marketing business. Getting Marketo certainly has the potential to help push that Digital Experience revenue line up further as the fight for marketshare gets ever more intense. Whether that happens remains to be seen, but Marketo is certainly a company that would match up well with Adobe if it wanted to make such a move.

It’s worth mentioning that Adobe will be reporting its latest earnings this afternoon.

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