VeriSign's Divestiture Process Yielded a Bargain Bin of Deals

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Includes: SVR, TNS, VRSN
by: 451 Research: Inorganic Growth

by Thomas Rasmussen

We’ve been closely watching VeriSign’s (NASDAQ:VRSN) grueling divestiture process from the beginning. One year and $750m in divestitures later, VeriSign is largely done with what it set out to do. The company finally managed to shed its messaging division to Syniverse Technologies (SVR) for $175m recently. Although we have to give the Mountain View, California-based Internet infrastructure services provider credit for successfully divesting nine large units of its business in about a year during the worst economic period in decades, we nonetheless can’t help but note that the vendor came out deeply underwater on its holdings. From 2004 to 2006 it spent approximately $1.3bn to acquire just shy of 20 differing businesses, which it has sold for basically half that amount. (Note that the cost doesn’t include the millions of additional dollars spent developing and marketing the acquired properties, nor the time spent on integrating and running them, which undoubtedly hurt VeriSign’s core business.)

Aside from the lawyers and bankers, the ones who really benefitted from VeriSign’s corporate diet were the acquirers able to pick up the assets for dimes on the dollar. And in most cases, the buyers of the castoff businesses were other companies since the traditional acquirers of divestitures (private equity firms) were largely frozen by the recent credit crisis.

The lack of competition from PE shops, combined with the depressed valuations across virtually all markets, means the buyers of VeriSign’s divested businesses scored some good bargains. Chief among them are TNS and Syniverse, which picked up the largest of the divested assets, VeriSign’s communications and messaging assets, respectively. Wall Street has backed the purchases by both companies. Shares of TNS have quadrupled since the company announced the deal in March, helped by a stronger-than-expected earnings projections this year. More specifically, Syniverse spiked 20% on the announcement of its buy, which we understand will be immediately accretive, adding roughly $35m in trailing 12-month EBITDA.

VeriSign’s divestitures, 2008 to present

Date Acquirer Unit sold Deal value
August 25, 2009 Syniverse Technologies Messaging business $175m
May 26, 2009 SecureWorks Managed security services $45m*
May 12, 2009 Paul Farrell Investor Group Real-Time Publisher Services business Not disclosed
March 2, 2009 Transaction Network Services Communications Services Group $230m
February 5, 2009 Sinon Invest Holding 3united Mobile Solutions $5m*
May 2, 2008 MK Capital Kontiki Not disclosed
April 30, 2008 Melbourne IT Digital Brand Management Services business $50m
October 8, 2008 News Corporation Jamba (remaining 49% minority stake) $200m
April 9, 2008 Globys Self-care and analytics business Not disclosed
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Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase *451 Group estimate