- This holiday season, private-equity firms are eyeing discounted public tech companies.
- Cyndx, a market-research firm, provided Insider with data on the most likely tech LBO targets.
- Dealmaking has been slow, but bankers expect more activity next year as sellers accept lower prices.
‘Tis the season for holiday shopping, and this December, private-equity firms have plenty to be celebrating. They can now snap up highly desirable public tech companies at bargain-basement prices after valuations plunged by as much as 80% this year.
Just this week, the PE giant Thoma Bravo agreed to buy the software maker Coupa, an enterprise spend-management-software company, in a deal valued at $8 billion. Coupa’s stock had fallen 60% this year, and the deal offers Coupa a 77% premium to where the stock was trading when word of the deal first got out.
Overall, dealmakers have been sitting on the sidelines this year, with PE activity down 55% in the third quarter from an already slow second quarter, according to EY.
Investment bankers who Insider spoke with blame the slowdown on turbulence in the leveraged-financing markets as well as a reluctance of boards and major shareholders to sell at depressed valuations.
“A lot of frustration comes from the sell side being unrealistic,” Kirk Kaludis, the global head of technology investment banking at RBC Capital Markets, said.
For instance, after recent speculation that another firm, Vista Equity Partners, wanted to buy Coupa, the company’s largest shareholder took the unusual step of saying publicly it would oppose any deal that undervalued the company.
But the company still ended up being taken private, albeit at a higher price. And sellers are becoming increasingly resigned to accept lower offers, Jason Gurandiano, RBC’s US head of technology banking, said.
“We’re starting to see people engage, particularly founders who see the outlook for the next couple of years,” Gurandiano said. “They can make a decision to sell today at a depressed multiple or hold on for a couple years and have value destruction.”
On the buyer side, PE firms are sitting on upward of $2.5 trillion in dry powder. Thoma Bravo announced earlier this month it had completed fundraising for massive buyout funds totaling more than $32.4 billion after its recent acquisitions of the software companies Anaplan, ForgeRock, Ping Identity, and SailPoint Technologies.
Bankers are advising private-equity clients to act fast.
“If you don’t buy now, it’s gonna be more expensive in the second half of the year,” said James McVeigh, a longtime investment banker and the founder and CEO of Cyndx, a market-research firm. “You will see pricing run away from you after Q1.”
So which companies are likely to be on the holiday-shopping lists of PE firms?
Cyndx, which recently launched a new corporate-valuation tool for companies, provided Insider with the most likely targets. (Coupa was originally on the list before it got snapped up.) Cyndx based the list on criteria bankers and buyout firms consider the most important:
- Dependable revenue. Private-equity firms require a steady cash flow to pay down debt, which excludes many kinds of tech companies that have more volatile income streams. One big exception is software-as-a-service companies that have subscriptions and other long-term contracts with customers who rely on them to run their businesses, even in a recession.
- A market capitalization between $1 billion and $10 billion. There are some bigger leveraged-buyout deals — like Twitter’s, if that ever closes — but the average private-equity deal was $1.1 billion last year, according to Bain & Co.
- A stock price down more than 30% in 2022. This one is not hard to find, with the Nasdaq down about 20% this year and many SaaS providers down much more than that.
- Earnings expected next year. If PE firms are preparing to layer on more debt, companies have to generate profits and use that cash to pay off the loans.
Here are the 34 contenders, ranked by the lowest enterprise-value-to-EBITDA ratio as of December 3. A company’s enterprise value includes its market capitalization, debt, and any cash on the balance sheet. EBITDA is earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization, a common measure of profitability. (An EV/EBITDA value below 10 is commonly interpreted as healthy, though tech companies often have much higher ratios because investors are willing to pay more for growth.) Companies did not respond to requests for comment unless otherwise noted.
NCR Corporation, a company that helps restaurants, retailers, and banks run their businesses, has not had a great 2022. The company’s stock price has fallen over 40% in the past 12 months, with the public markets valuing the entire company at slightly more than its projected 2023 revenues. Additionally, NCR is fairly leveraged, with $5.7 billion in debt versus $736 million in cash. Wall Street expects the company’s revenue to grow by 3.2% next year.
Synaptics is a developer of human-interface hardware and software, or the means through which humans and computers communicate with each other, like touchpads or biometrics. The company has suffered an over 64% drop in stock price this year and is projected to shrink revenue by nearly 3% in 2023.
SolarWinds develops software to help businesses manage their networks. Its time as a public company has been stormy, with the stock cut in half since debuting on the New York Stock Exchange in 2018 and falling more than 40% this year. SolarWinds now has an enterprise value of just over $2.5 billion, making it affordable for PE firms that might also be attracted to its $493 million of cash on hand.
F5 provides application security, multi-cloud management, and online-fraud prevention. It stands out from most other companies on our list because it has been public since 1999 and is relatively large, with an enterprise value of nearly $9 billion. But with the stock down nearly 40% this year, the company could finally be small enough to attract interest from PE buyers who could also take a liking to its solid balance sheet.
Outsourcing company TaskUs debuted on the public markets in June 2021 with a strong 26% IPO price pop. Since then, however, the company has seen its market capitalization sliced nearly in half in the last year. TaskUs’ low trading multiple of 2.4 times next year’s revenue could be a reflection of its slow revenue growth, with an estimated increase in 2023 revenue of just 6.6%, according to Wall Street estimates.
EverCommerce’s first year as a public company has been a rough one, with the stock down more than 60% since its debut last July. But it has a durable and growing business, providing software-as-a-service to half a million small and midsize companies. It’s carrying more than half a billion dollars in debt, but Wall Street analysts are projecting 12.4% revenue growth next year.
R1 RCM offers revenue tools to healthcare companies. Despite suffering a 60% drop in stock price this year, which resulted in the company trading at less than three times next year’s revenue, the company is still projected by Wall Street to grow sales at nearly 30% in 2023, making it an attractive target for private-equity firms.
Digital consulting firm Perficient has been an active acquirer in recent years, picking up other consulting companies like Inflection Point and Ameex Technologies. With a stock price down 45% in the last year, though, it may soon find itself on the other side of the table. With a market capitalization of $2.6 billion, Perficient trades at three times next year’s revenue and is projected to grow sales just under 10% in 2023.
E2Open originally entered the public markets in July 2012 before being taken private by Insight Venture Partners in 2015. In February 2021, the supply chain management firm went public for the second time through a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, at the height of the SPAC craze. Now, E2Open may become a private company again, as the company deals with a stock price down nearly 50% in the last year and over $1 billion in debt versus just $115 million in cash. A E2Open spokesperson declined to comment.
RingCentral is similar to Zoom, except it focuses on audio, providing a cloud-based business-phone system that delivers team messages, videoconferences, and phone calls. Both companies have had their shares battered in the past year, with RingCentral’s stock down about 80%, giving it a market capitalization of about $3.9 billion. RingCentral seems interested in being a buyer itself, as there’s been market chatter about a potential acquisition of its competitor 8×8.
Alarm.com offers services for remote control, home automation, and monitoring services. The company’s stock has sunk 37% this year, currently trading at less than 3 times next year’s revenue. Wall Street expects Alarm.com’s sales to grow by just 3.8% in 2023, but the company is profitable, making it a potential target for private equity firms.
Permira and Canada’s government-pension fund took Informatica, an enterprise cloud-data-management platform, private in 2015. The company went public again in October of last year, and with its stock price cut in half this year, it could be primed to go private yet again. The company brought in $1.44 billion in revenue last year, up 9% from 2020. In 2023, it’s forecasted to grow sales by 9.2%. An Informatica spokesperson told Insider that the company “continues to stay focused on growing its cloud customer base and be a market leader in cloud data management.”
DigitalOcean provides businesses with cloud-computing services. The company experienced a 66% drop in stock price this year and is now trading at 5.4 times next year’s revenue estimates. However, DigitalOcean is EBITDA-positive and is forecasted to grow sales at a nearly 30% rate in 2023.
Customer experience company Momentive, originally known as SurveyMonkey, has had quite a, well, momentous year. At the end of 2021, customer service firm Zendesk announced its acquisition of Momentive, but just a few months later, in February 2022, Momentive’s shareholders rejected the proposed acquisition following a failed takeover of Zendesk by a group of private equity firms. Since then, Momentive’s stock has plummeted 60% from where it was a year ago, and the company is projected to grow revenue by just 8.3% next year. Momentive’s failed acquisition and lackluster performance could present an opportunity for opportunistic PE firms.
The website builder Squarespace went public in May 2021 via direct listing at a market capitalization of $6.6 billion. Since then, the company has seen lukewarm stock performance, with its market cap dropping to $3 billion. Private-equity firms may be drawn to the company for its positive EBITDA, although its sales growth has faltered with an expected 10.5% increase in 2023.
Cvent provides software for event management, marketing, and attendee engagement. It first went public in 2013, raising $135 million. Three years later, it was taken private by Vista Equity Partners for $1.65 billion, and it went public again late last year, this time via a special-purpose acquisition company. Since then, its stock has fallen by nearly 40%. It may soon be a private company for a third time.
Twilio, which sells programmable communication tools for making and receiving phone calls, saw its stock plummet 34% in November after lowering its fourth-quarter guidance. The stock is down more than 80% this year and Twilio’s enterprise value sits at just $6.4 billion. PE buyers could be enticed by the company’s pristine balance sheet, with more than $4 billion of cash against less than $1 billion in debt.
Five9 is a provider of cloud-based call-center software that over 2,500 clients use for sales, marketing, and customer service. In 2021, Five9’s shareholders rejected Zoom’s $14.7 billion bid for the company, but with a halved market capitalization from a year ago and a forecasted 16.5% revenue growth, Five9 may be back on the market. A Five9 spokesperson declined to comment.
Everbridge, which offers applications for personal safety and business continuity, has seen its stock rise 20% in the past month. Even so, the stock is trading at half what it was at the beginning of 2022. Everbridge brought in $368.4 million of revenue last year that analysts are projecting to grow 6.3% in the next year. Meanwhile, its enterprise value stands at just $1.7 billion.
Altair offers software for simulation, high-performance computing, data analytics, and artificial intelligence. The company’s stock is down about 30% this year, with an acquisition of data analytics and machine learning company RapidMiner announced in September, and analysts predict only 8.4% revenue growth next year. Altair has about equal amounts of cash and debt, $312 million and $305 million, respectively. An Altair spokesperson declined to comment.
Throughout 2020 and 2021, Rapid7’s stock soared as high-profile cybersecurity attacks and data breaches made the company’s security offerings more relevant than ever. However, after a year of falling stock prices and the acquisitions of fellow cybersecurity companies like Ping Identity and ForgeRock by PE firm Thoma Bravo, Rapid7 may be next in line for buyers. The company has a nearly $2 billion market capitalization and is projected to grow revenue by 17.3% next year. A Rapid7 spokesperson declined to comment.
Q2 helps banks, credit unions, and fintech companies with digital banking and lending. Its stock has plummeted by nearly 70% this year, giving it an enterprise value of less than $2 billion. The company has yet to turn a profit but has seen revenue growth of greater than 20% the past three years and analysts are projecting 13.6% growth next year, leaving some to believe the stock is oversold.
Definitive Healthcare, a healthcare analytics and data provider company, joined a steady stream of healthcare companies going public in 2021, like medical professional platform Doximity and digital health startup Hims & Hers. Although the public offering was priced on the high end of its range and enjoyed a near 50% IPO pop, Definitive Healthcare’s stock has struggled since, falling 57% in the last year. However, the company is still trading at nearly 12 times next year’s revenue and is projected to grow sales by about 17% in 2023.
Qualtrics is an experience management company that allows enterprise users like UPS to easily create surveys and generate reports. Since going public last year, its stock has fallen nearly 80%, giving it a market capitalization of around $6 billion. But it has $732 million in cash on hand, with zero debt, and analysts are projecting 16% revenue growth. One obstacle to a sale is that any deal would have to be approved by SAP, the German software company that remains the controlling shareholder.
Duck Creek Technologies
Duck Creek Technologies provides software to the property and casualty insurance industry. The company was one of the first to go public during the COVID-19 pandemic, and its stock saw mixed performance during 2020 and 2021 due to smaller-than-expected earnings beats and weak financial guidance. This year, Duck Creek’s market capitalization has been cut by 60%, presenting a potential opportunity for PE firms to pick up an asset at a low price.
Elastic helps companies quickly store, search, and analyze huge volumes of data in the cloud. Its stock is down more than 50% this year, despite projected revenue growth of 25% and an enviable client roster that includes Netflix, Microsoft, Slack, and Uber.
Data security and analytics company Varonis was perhaps one of the greatest beneficiaries of 2020 and 2021’s tech craze, as the company saw its stock soar over 300% from March 2020 to its heights in September 2021. This year, though, Varonis has come back to earth — its stock price has sunk over 57% in the last 12 months. However, the company is still well capitalized, with $790 million in cash and $249 million in debt, and with lots of deal activity in the cybersecurity space, Varonis could be an enticing acquisition choice. A Varonis spokesperson declined to comment.
nCino, which offers a bank operating system, braved the global pandemic to go public in July 2020, a time when many tech companies were avoiding the public markets. They were rewarded with a more than 150% surge in price during their first day of trading. Since then, though, the company’s stock has faced tougher times, decreasing by 47% in the last 12 months and giving the company a market capitalization of $3.1 billion. Wall Street predicts nCino’s revenue to grow about 20% from 2022 to 2023.
Strong demand for Olo’s March 2021 IPO helped push the company’s offering price range from $16-$18 to $20-$22 before ultimately pricing at $25 per share with a nearly $4 billion valuation. A year and a half later, the restaurant tech company’s enterprise value is merely $842 million. Despite Olo’s dismal stock price performance, PE buyers could be enticed with the company’s zero debt and 17% projected revenue growth.
Zuora helps companies build, run, and grow their subscription businesses. The company has seen a nearly 60% drop in stock price this year and is trading at less than two times next year’s revenue. In March 2022, Zuora received $400 million in capital from tech investment firm Silver Lake in the form of convertible debt, and the recent cash infusion may make it less open to a takeover. However, with strong projected 2023 revenue growth of 18.6%, Zuora remains a strong target for PE firms.
In June 2021, customer experience management company Sprinklr went public in a downsized IPO, both cutting its opening price and number of shares sold. Since its lackluster public debut, Sprinklr’s bad luck has continued, as the company has experienced a 36% decrease in stock price in the last year. But the company carries zero debt on its books and analysts expect brisk 19% revenue growth next year. A Sprinklr spokesperson declined to comment.
New Relic provides cloud-based software to help websites and app owners track performance. The stock is down about 45% this year and now trades at less than three times next year’s projected sales. New Relic’s tough year has resulted in takeover rumors, with Reuters reporting that the company is preparing to explore a potential sale following interest from private equity firms and a growing stake from activist investor Jana Partners. New Relic said as a company policy, they do not comment on rumors or speculation.
BlackLine develops cloud-based services to automate the financial-close, accounts-receivable, and intercompany accounting processes. Its stock price has been hammered, going down about 40% this year and making it the subject of mergers-and-acquisitions chatter. Wall Street sees 21% revenue growth over the next year.
During its April 2021 IPO, UiPath landed a $31 billion valuation, slightly below its last private financing valuation of $35 billion but an impressive achievement nonetheless. Over the past year, the software automation company has seen its stock plummet over 60%, and now the company has an enterprise value of less than $7 billion. However, UiPath has zero debt on its books and analysts are projecting demand for its offerings will remain strong with strong revenue growth of almost 20% next year.
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