ACS's Buyout Bomb

Over the past couple of years, private equity firms have warmed up to tech buyouts. But with the recent credit crunch, that experiment is looking sickly, and now information technology consulting firm Affiliated Computer Services (NYSE: ACS  ) may pay the price.

In April, the company announced a going-private transaction at $59.25 per share, subsequently boosting that price tag to $62. Now the stock price is languishing at $49.42.

The deal is not officially dead. But on the fiscal Q4 conference call, ACS's CEO Lynn Blodgett made an ominous statement: "We are a public company, and due to the state of the debt markets, we will most likely remain a public company for some time."

So it makes sense to take a look at the figures for Q4 and get a sense of ACS's direction. Revenue came in at $1.52 billion, up 10%. But net income fell 56% to $37.6 million, or $0.37 per share, largely because of the termination of a major contract with the Department of Education.

Despite all this, ACS cranked out a healthy $343 million in cash flow from operations. It seems that the company is enjoying considerable success in collecting accounts receivables.

However, the Q4 new-business signings were a bit light at $153 million, compared to the year-ago quarter's $156.2 million worth.

Uncertainty about the going-private transaction could be scaring customers away. If ACS takes on too much debt, might it invest less than enough on its projects? Prospective clients certainly have many alternatives, including Accenture (NYSE: ACN  ) , Electronic Data Systems (NYSE: EDS  ) , IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) , and Perot Systems (NYSE: PER  ) .

ACS has also been distracted lately as it deals with a stock-option backdating investigation. So for Foolish investors, it's probably best to wait for things to calm down before considering the stock.

Consult our further Foolishness:

Fool contributor Tom Taulli, author of The Complete M&A Handbook, does not own shares of companies mentioned in this article. He is currently ranked 1,616 out of more than 60,000 total participants in CAPS. The Fool has a high-tech disclosure policy.


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