The Kofax acquisition, which practically doubled the size of Lexmark ES, was completed in Q2 2015, so Q3 2015 represented Lexmark ES' first full quarter including Kofax results. Lexmark ES Q3 2015 revenue was reported at $165M with operating margins increasing to 19% - a positive trend. Of course, these results were released just three days after Lexmark had announced that is was "exploring strategic alternatives to enhance shareholder value." So, a lot has happened between then and now, including, in April, Lexmark agreeing to be acquired by a consortium of Chinese investors led by Apex Technology and PAG Asia Capital.
As Apex's primary business is the manufacture of ink cartridge chips, there have been questions about its use for Lexmark ES, and rumors have been flying that Lexmark ES would be sold in its entirety or piecemeal prior to the Apex acquisition closing, which is supposed to happen before the end of this year. In the meantime, Lexmark ES struggled through a rough first quarter before rebounding somewhat in Q2. For Q3 Lexmark has reported revenue of $157M or about a 5% YOY decrease. Not great numbers, but considering all the FUD in the market surrounding who is going to own Lexmark ES going forward, not terrible. We didn't get any other numbers, like profitability related to Lexmark ES, as Lexmark corporate is keeping reporting to a minimum, and "will not conduct quarterly conference calls while the [acquisition] is pending."
To us the Q3 numbers indicated that Lexmark ES is still a very viable business, albeit with a run rate closer to $600M than the $700M that was originally projected when Kofax was acquired. ES has a large install base, along with plenty of maintenance revenue, as well as a stack of technology that it continues to invest in. So, what's it worth? Probably not the $1.89B we were speculating on in the wake of Open Text's acquisition of EMC's Enterprise Content Division (ECD). That was based on the projected $700M run rate.
Let's scale back that run rate to a more realistic $640M. Applying the same multiple of 2.7x revenue that Open Text paid for ECD, that puts a price for Lexmark ES closer to $1.73B, which still wouldn't be a bad price, considering Apex and PAG are paying $3.6B for the entirety of Lexmark, which is about equal to the revenue that the entirety of Lexmark reported for 2015. So, if they were to get even $1.5B for Lexmark ES, they would still be getting an approximately $3B hardware entity for close to $2B, which seems like a great deal. That said, Apex and PAG may be willing to go even lower on Lexmark ES, depending on what they value that hardware business at.
The bottom line is that Lexmark ES, even with its recent growth struggles, could be had at a relative bargain it seems. The question is, of course, who would buy it? Open Text is presumably out of the picture after the ECD acquisition, but you never know. Hyland owner Thoma Bravo has been rumored to be in play, but at their recent conference Hyland executives gave us no indication that was under consideration. Xerox wanted to buy Kofax before Lexmark did, and Xerox has stated they are on the ECM acquisition trail, but if the $1B price that Lexmark paid topped their original bid, would they be inclined to pay more for something larger, or would Apex and PAG be willing to break off Kofax separately for Xerox and sell it to them at their original bid? Or could Lexmark ES execs like Reynolds Bish and Carl Mergele cobble together enough financial backing for a private equity bid?
We still expect something to happen with Lexmark ES before the Apex/PAG acquisition closes. That would give us a little over two months. Stay tuned!