With BMC(s bmc) being taken private by a pair of private equity firms in a deal worth $6.9 billion or $46.25 per share in cash, one has to wonder what legacy IT vendor will be next to take this route.
Dell(s dell) blazed the trail in February when it announced plans to take itself off the public market. That move, valued at $24.5 billion, was orchestrated by founder and CEO Michael Dell and Silver Lake Partners. Critics said the price undervalued the company which remains a power in PCs and servers, and is navigating a shift into cloud computing. In the mobile space, Alltel was ahead of the trend, taking itself private in 2007, and was scooped up by Verizon(s vz) two years later for $5.9 billion.
Citing unnamed sources, Reuters first reported Sunday that a BMC take-out by an investment group comprising Bain Capital and Golden Gate Partners was under discussion. BMC is not a household name for consumers but in business it’s a pretty big deal for enterprise IT and database admins.
BMC brands include Remedy service management software; BladeLogic automated configuration management; and Track-IT help desk and asset management. These are the kinds of non-glam tools that keep a data center running. Dell bought Quest Software, probably BMC’s most direct competitor, in deal that was completed in September 2012.
Industry watchers said whatever happens with this proposed BMC deal, be prepared for more action. “There’s a seismic shift afoot with enterprise software vendors as they move from traditional pricing and distribution models to OpEx, SaaS and cloud models. This means a financial disruption for many of them, not just BMC Software,” said Dana Gardner, principal analyst with Inter-Arbor Solutions and GigaOM PRO analyst.
To be sure, Dell and BMC are not alone: HP(s hpq), IBM(s ibm), Oracle(s orcl) and Microsoft(s msft) are face withering heat from shareholders who expect the old profitability models to hold up even as the world of computing changes dramatically. As an example, IBM last month stunned the market by missing on profit and revenue expectations for its first quarter. As Forbes reported:
“Revenues from cloud computing and analytics initiative continued to see growth in Q1. However, its core software business had a lackluster performance in the quarter and revenues were $5.6 billion, flat year-over-year (y-o-y) and up 1% in constant currency.”
Cloud upsets the apple cart
Cloud is the disrupting force here. As more companies evaluate the economics of putting workloads on massive webscale infrastructure — outside their walls — they will buy far fewer servers and routers themselves. And as more corporate applications are delivered via software-as-a-service models there are fewer huge upfront software licensing deals. Instead payments are spread out across a year or three. There is also pressure on the massive enterprise service and maintenance fees favored by companies like Oracle.
“There’s a bet to be made,” Gardner said. “Does Wall Street understand such transitions, or does it throw the baby out with the bath water?”
It’s unlikely that giants like Oracle, IBM, Microsoft would go private, but never say never to a flock of smaller companies like BMC that may be sick of dealing with Wall Street pressures. For those smaller enterprise software (and hardware) companies, it may make sense to revert to private control and then re-emerge on the public markets when the coast is clear, or at least less rocky.