I’ve been thinking about the news from last week that OpenText acquired Micro Focus for what seems to be $6 billion in cash. Mike Vizard did a nice write-up on the news with his take on it here on DevOps.com (and if you’re interested in the security industry implications, Techstrong Research’s Mike Rothman talked about that, too). While I don’t flat-out disagree with Mike Vizard’s opinions, I do have a slightly different view.
To me, this is part of a trend we have been seeing from some of the largest tech companies who are sitting on or have access to loads of dry-powder cash. In tougher economic times, cash is king and it is not unusual for the large companies to come in and pick up other companies and lines of business, usually on the cheap.
For instance, Broadcom’s acquisition of VMware (though I don’t know that you could call $61 billion cheap). It seems, at first blush, the Micro Focus deal would seem to fit the same kind of bill. I don’t think people believe OpenText overpaid based on these numbers:
- Total purchase price is 2.2x Micro Focus’ pro forma TTM revenues
- Total purchase price is 6.3x Micro Focus’ pro forma TTM adjusted EBITDA
However, I think there’s more here than meets the eye. By OpenText’s CEO’s own admission, it is going to take at least eight quarters (two years) to integrate the Micro Focus portfolio into OpenText’s cloud delivery model.
In the meantime, Micro Focus has struggled to maintain profitability and previously announced a $300 million cost-cutting program which will continue with the acquisition. Additionally, the company is saying they will cut another $100 million in costs on top of that; so, a total of $400 million in cuts.
Where are the cuts coming from? It’s not like Micro Focus’ broad portfolio of software products are revolutionary new technology—quite the opposite, in fact. Micro Focus, through various acquisitions over the years, has largely scooped up mature product lines from large technology brands that unloaded unwanted or non-strategic software lines-of-business. Of course, the HP/HPE deal was a whole different animal, but the result was not much different.
Some mature software came under Micro Focus’ control and Micro Focus has done a decent job of keeping those lines of business turning out what cash they can. They haven’t really “reinvigorated” that software, but have been running out the cycle. Now, OpenText says moving it to their cloud service over the next eight quarters is going to turn things around. I’m skeptical, to say the least.
I think it will be old software that will be two years older and delivered via the cloud. What must be done goes beyond just putting that software in the cloud—they have to commit to truly relaunching it. Move it to cloud-native architecture; kill some of the older product lines that are near end-of-life and, frankly, which should have been put out to pasture some time ago. Build on the brand equity, sure, but launch some new software.
At the end of the day, $6 billion is a lot of money—but more money than that has been wasted buying old software in the past. Without a much bolder plan from OpenText, just mumbling about digital transformation and cloud will not be enough to make the Micro Focus portfolio worth anything close to the amount of money they paid for it.
Like Mike Vizard—and, I am sure, many OpenText investors and Micro Focus users—I will be looking for signs that OpenText are not settling for a lift-and-shift with the old Micro Focus software wrapped in the cloud. It is going to take more than that for this deal to pay dividends.
I am not saying it can’t be done. When this deal closes, OpenText will be a software powerhouse with a broad set of customers. Finding new software and services to sell to those customers is the key to this deal.