Earlier this month, Canada's Thomson
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If the acquisition goes through, Information Holdings' business of providing patent and trademark databases and databases of government intellectual property regulations, along with software that simplifies the creation, registration, and use of intellectual property, would significantly boost Thomson's scientific and health-care business (although it would remain the smallest of Thomson's four main divisions).
Thomson expects to pay $28 per share for Information Holdings, or about $440 million total. That seems expensive at first glance, and indeed, Information Holdings has a price-to-sales ratio of 6.7 -- more than twice Thomson's own valuation. But consider that as much as $7.40 a share of Information Holdings' market cap comprises cash and investments ($63 million in cash and short-term investments and another $89 million in long-term investments). Subtract out the cash and investments, and the value of the company proper drops to just 3.3 times sales. That's still pricier than the market is valuing the acquirer, Thomson, but not outrageously so.
After all, Information Holdings' gross margins are nearly three times Thomson's. All that remains to turn Information Holdings into a seriously profitable operation is to get the operating costs down -- and integration into Thomson's established business networks may be just the ticket to accomplish that. If Thomson is successful, then in a few years, its shareholders may well be thinking that this transaction was not actually pricey at all.
Fool contributor Rich Smith has no interest in any of the companies mentioned in this article.