By Ben Kolada
Following a record dealmaking year for the speech recognition software vendor, Nuance Communications (NASDAQ:NUAN) today announced the $313m acquisition of medical-focused rival Transcend Services (TRCR). The deal is Nuance’s largest purchase since its last significant medical acquisition in April 2008, when it paid $363m for eScription. Nuance had earlier acquired Transcend competitor Webmedx for an undisclosed amount in July 2011. Each of these transactions bolsters Nuance’s healthcare division.
Nuance is handing over $29.50 per share in cash for Transcend, valuing the target’s equity at $313m (Transcend had no debt and about $13m in cash at the end of 2011, so the enterprise value is slightly lower at $300m). The per-share offer is a 40% premium to Transcend’s closing share price the day before the deal was announced and, with the exception of a brief uptick in July 2011, the highest price Transcend’s shares have seen since 1996. However, the valuation for the company is lower than a precedent transaction. Using enterprise value, Nuance is valuing Transcend at only 2.4x trailing sales. Meanwhile, its pickup of eScription, an SaaS provider of voice recognition and transcription services, was valued at a loftier 8.1x trailing sales. Some explanation for the discrepancy is the premium given to SaaS companies and difference in margins. EScription had an equally lofty operating margin of 39% compared with Transcend’s 16%. Further, Transcend’s SaaS platform was relatively nascent, having hit the market just last summer.
The Transcend buy follows a record year of dealmaking that saw Nuance announce eight transactions worth nearly $400m. But the buying spree may not be over, given the continuing consolidation in the transcription and voice recognition sector. Even MedQuist (MEDH), a relatively infrequent acquirer and Transcend’s chief competitor, bought three companies in the past two years, including M*Modal for $130m in July 2011.