Guidance Software: IPO On The Way to Buyout?

| About: Guidance Software, (GUID)

Except for standout companies like (NYSE: CRM) and RightNow (Nasdaq: RNOW), the IPO market for software offerings has been mostly dry. But, over the past month, there has been a variety of IPO software filings, such as Picis, MEDecision and Double-Take Software.

It’s too soon to see if there is a comeback on the horizon. But, perhaps, we will get some evidence this week, when DivX (Nasdaq: DIVX) and CommVault (Nasdaq: CVLT) hit the public markets.

Actually, this week, there was another software IPO filing: Guidance Software (NASDAQ:GUID). The lead underwriters include Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS) and Lehman Brothers (NYSE: LEH).

Guidance develops software to help with digital investigations. It’s certainly a growth industry, as seen with wayward emails that have resulted in major trials (propelling Elliot Spitzer to prominence). Or, look at what’s happened with Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ), in which a private investigation firm used questionable practices to spy on the company’s board.

Guidance’s flagship product is EnCase Enterprise, which helps search, collect and analyze digital evidence, such as from servers, desktops and laptops.

Traditionally, such e-investigations have been conducted by high-paid consultants. However, this approach is often inefficient. But with EnCase, the process is much more streamlined – and cost-effective. The software is also able to uncover deleted and concealed data. What’s more, the e-investigation is done with minimal disruption to the organization.

The EnCase software has certainly been stress-tested. For example, it was instrumental in such cases as the murder trial of Scott Peterson.

There are definitely strong catalysts for growth for Guidance. One big driver is a pending amendment to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which will require litigants to discuss the production of electronic evidence. There will also be an obligation to preserve and identify electronic evidence.

So, it should be no surprise that the market for digital investigation and cyber forensic solutions is expected to grow at a rapid clip. IDC projects growth from $600 million in 2005 to $1.4 billion by 2009.

And, yes, Guidance is growing quickly, too. Revenues went from $17.7 million in 2003 to $39.5 million in 2005. As for the first part of 2006, revenues were $24.5 million.

The company had a net loss of $1.6 million. Then again, as the company scales its revenues, it should be able to hit profitability.

But given the intense interest in security software – as seen with recent deals from companies like EMC (NYSE: EMC) and IBM (NYSE: IBM) – Guidance may instead ultimately be bought out. And, the filing of the IPO might be the first step.

Related: Highlights from Guidance Software's S-1 Filing

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