Software vendors sate their big appetites
Belly up to the acquisition bar, boys.
Enterprise applications software makers gorged on acquisitions this year, filling their plates with billion-dollar megamergers and niche deals to round out their portfolios.
U.S. software mergers amounted to 656 deals this year, according to Thomson Financial's latest figures through November.
Oracle led the way in high-profile acquisitions, from closing its controversial and hard-fought $10.5 billion purchase of PeopleSoft to announcing its $5.8 billion acquisition of former rival Siebel Systems.
But Oracle didn't stop there. It also announced about a dozen other strategic acquisitions, from retail software maker Retek to logistics and transportation management software maker G-Log.
The software merger mania that erupted this year came as players tried to bulk up in revenue size as a means to achieve double-digit profit margins, investment bankers said. With acquisitions, software vendors hoped to dramatically increase revenues at a disproportionately higher rate than costs, given the industry's reputation for low manufacturing costs.
Others pointed to an industry ripe for consolidation, given the number of players in what had been a fractured market post venture capital funding boom in the late '90s and early 2000.
SAP, the industry's largest enterprise applications vendor, also had an unusually busy year.
"It's been a long time coming," said James Mackey, SAP's head of corporate finance. "We see a lot of nice assets out there that would be consistent with our strategy and easy to integrate into our (products) quickly. Also, software is evolving and that makes it easier to integrate them without having to rewrite the code base."
TomorrowNow, a support services company for former PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards customers, proved to be a strategic acquisition as it put SAP in the services businesses.
The remaining nine SAP acquisitions, however, focused on companies and technology that were complementary to its product line and easily integrated, Mackey said. Those deals included Lighthammer Software Development, an analytics company for the manufacturing industry, and retail software maker Khimetrics.
SAP either closed or announced a total of 10 acquisitions this year--the most ever in its 33-year history, said Mackey. Last year, for example, SAP engaged in just three acquisitions.
BEA Systems, meanwhile, was another applications vendor caught up in merger mania this year. The middleware company acquired database development tools maker SolarMetric last month, adding to its stable of roughly half a dozen acquisitions it announced or closed this year. Plumtree Software, a portal software company, topped BEA's acquisitions list with a $200 million price tag.
Keeping an eye toward the New Year, industry players do not anticipate fewer mergers in the enterprise software applications market.
"I think consolidation will continue," Mackey said. "SAP's market share in applications is less than 20 percent, so there are still a ton of companies out there that may want to be part of a bigger and better company."
In its first of many acquisitions this year, the company acquires a telecommunications development tools maker.
After 18-months of public bashing by the CEOs of both companies, Oracle closes its $10.5 billion acquisition of arch-rival PeopleSoft.
SAP snags support/services firm TomorrowNow, in a move to steal Oracle's newly acquired PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards customers.
SAP initiated the buyout, but Oracle followed with a counter offer. After three rounds, Oracle won with a $650 million bid.
SAP acquires Lighthammer Software Development, as it seeks to bolster its position in the analytics software market.
Business Objects seeks to fill out its data analysis packages with SRC's financial planning and budgeting applications.
The $5.8 billion deal marks the second largest transaction for Oracle this year, as it scours the merger landscape to fill its portfolio holes.
Employees of both companies express concern over their ability to retain their jobs in a post-merger environment.
Oracle continues its buying spree, snapping up transportation and logistics management software vendor G-Log.
The acquisition of developer M7 aims to bolster BEA Systems' portfolio of open source tools, particularly Eclipse-based tools.
BEA Systems acquires database development tools maker SolarMetric, maker of Kodo, which eases the writing of certain Java server programs.
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