Editor's note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly indicated that the buyout offer was from management. We regret the error.
Leverage buyouts (LBOs) -- in which management, funds, or investor groups borrow large amounts of money to buy a company and take it private -- have traditionally been for brick-and-mortar companies. But with billions flowing into private equity firms, they're are now targeting software companies as well. The latest: the $1.3 billion LBO of enterprise software developer Intergraph
Founded in 1969, Intergraph develops so-called spatial information management (SIM) software. This helps major organizations -- such as federal government agencies, oil companies, utilities, and transportation systems -- analyze complex data and provide visual reports. For example, this can help a utility detect whether there is a security breach, or whether an oil rig is malfunctioning.
True, Intergraph's growth has been mediocre, at only 3% for the first six months of 2006 (total revenues were $291.8 million). Then again, the company's management has spent the past several years restructuring operations.
Intergraph has cut costs and consolidated various divisions. It's also invested more heavily in product development, with key offerings due to hit the market next year. Moreover, Intergraph has been aggressively prosecuting its rich portfolio of patents. Since 2002, the company has racked up more than $900 million in licensing fees from companies like Intel
More importantly, with global terrorist threats heightening the need for infrastructure security, and increasingly complex requirements in the oil industry, Intergraph's long-term market growth potential looks bright.
With companies like HP and IBM buying up established software companies, Intergraph might be the target of more offers. After all, the buyout offer is $44 per share, well below Intergraph's $51.77 yearly high. Assuming the company generates roughly $600 million in revenues for the year, the current price-to-sales multiple is 2.1, which is lower than other recent software deals, such as IBM's purchase of FileNet.
Certainly, buying a stock because of possible buyout bids is not particularly Foolish for individual investors. But for companies like HP and IBM, it might be irresistible.
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Fool contributor Tom Taulli does not own shares mentioned in this article.