Golden Gate Capital and Infor (which is owned largely by Golden Gate Capital) will acquire Lawson Software for approximately $2 billion in a transaction that is expected to be completed sometime in this year’s third quarter. Lawson is the latest in a string of enterprise software acquisitions made or financed by Golden Gate that began almost a decade ago. Today, Infor is made up of legacy companies such as Baan, Comshare, ePiphany, Dun & Bradstreet Software, SSA, Sun Systems and Symix, to name just a handful. Compared to Oracle’s acquisition approach, I would describe Golden Gate’s as more of a “rollup” of applications software vendors because it incorporates a larger number of smaller companies. While Oracle has focused primarily on serving the largest corporations, Infor’s customers tend to be midsize to large companies or divisions of very large corporations. Nonetheless, with this acquisition Infor will have a larger base of revenue and installations to work from in an industry where size and economies of scale drive profitability and competitiveness.
Lawson’s focus has been on two main vertical segments that I think nicely complement Infor’s lineup: services-oriented S3 strategic industries, which includes healthcare and public sector organizations as well as the cross-industry market for human capital management (HCM) software that my colleague recently outlined its importance for 2011; and light manufacturing-oriented M3 strategic industries, which targets fashion companies, equipment service management and rental as well as food and beverage. The HCM portfolio of Lawson will significantly help Infor who has not been as aggressive with its workforce management solution acquired many years back and for a market that is growing and consolidating rapidly in the last several years. Lawson’s strategy has been to focus on midsize-to-larger organizations in its core markets with a vertical-specific product focus and a value proposition of lower cost of ownership.
One objective in an acquisition such as this is to keep customers paying maintenance as long as possible. (I covered this topic in an earlier blog, “The Technology Stack and Innovation.”) When the final deal was announced it was accompanied by a letter from Infor’s CEO, Charles Phillips, to Lawson’s customers aimed at reassuring them that Infor is in it for the long run to keep them as customers and that Lawson’s current products will continue to receive support.
Beyond the goal of continuing to receive maintenance fees on Lawson’s existing product lines, I think that the Lawson acquisition reaffirms Infor’s basic product approach of making it simple for its customers to migrate from their existing software to a next-generation Infor offering. Software companies that like Infor have acquired an array of similar business applications have big incentives to move established customers onto a new or substantially updated system as painlessly as possible; otherwise they are likely to stop paying maintenance and start evaluating a full set of alternatives. (I just covered this point in a recent blog on ending “forklift migrations.” Reducing migration pain makes it much easier for a vendor to keep customers on maintenance and hold onto an important and highly profitable source of revenue. Moreover, it’s a way for these vendors to consolidate the number of code bases they are maintaining, which at the very least will make their development programs more effective, rationalize sales efforts and offer operating savings.
While the price Golden Gate and Infor are paying is hardly cheap (at about 2.6 times this year’s projected revenue for Lawson), it does give the acquirers a large, incremental, maintenance-paying installed base that can be targeted with a “pain-free” migration offering. Whether this ultimately pays off for Infor’s and Golden Gate’s investors depends, of course, on execution. Infor has been a company with good (and some not so good) products with unfulfilled potential. It’s up to Charles Phillips who already and his team to realize that potential and put into action his letter to Infor and Lawson on the announcement.
Robert Kugel – SVP Research