ECi Software Acquired by Apax Partners

Jeff Hayes
Aug 15, 2017

Apax Partners LLP announced it has agreed to acquire ECi Software Solutions (Fort Worth, TX) a provider of enterprise resource planning software solutions for small and medium-sized companies in the distribution, field services, building and construction, and manufacturing industries. The sellers are The Carlyle Group, a global asset management and private-equity firm which acquired ECi in March of 2014, and Level Equity. No financial terms were disclosed, but clearly the timing and price were right for the sellers.ECi Logo

Apax is a leading private equity firm headquartered in London and New York that primarily invests in companies across four global sectors of Tech and Telco, Services, Healthcare, and Consumer. The company has investments in 23 companies in the Tech and Telco sector including Exact Software (Delft, The Netherlands), a provider of subscription-based shop management, ERP, accounting, and CRM software for small to mid-size manufacturing companies.

Ron Books CEO ECi Software

Ron Books
CEO ECi Software

Apax also announced that concurrent with this transaction the Macola, JobBOSS and MAX businesses of Exact Software will be combined with ECi. The current ECi senior management team, including Chief Executive Officer Ron Books, will continue to lead the combined company, which will be known as ECi Software Solutions. It will remain headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas.

Based on some desk research on Exact from various sources (company website, CrunchBase, DealBook, PE Hub, Wikipedia), Exact has around 1,600 employees in 14 countries. The company was founded in 1984 and grew through organic initiatives and acquisitions including Macola Software in 2001 and Kewill ERP (JobsBOSS and MAX) in 2002. Exact was listed on the Euronext exchange in 1999 and posted revenue of €213.2 million in 2013 and €188 million in 2014. Apax Partners completed a buyout of Exact in April 2015 for €730 million.

Strategy and Implications

Apax appears to be doubling down on its presence in the ERP software space within the SMB manufacturing market and extending further into cloud-based e-business solutions. Jason Wright, a partner at Apax, said, “Apax is excited to back Ron and his team’s vision of accelerating organic growth through the transition to SaaS. The combination of Exact’s Macola, JobBOSS and MAX businesses with ECi will further enhance our offering in the manufacturing vertical and provides a compelling platform for future acquisitions.”

Under Ron Books’ leadership (he joined the company in 1999 and has been CEO since 2009), ECi has made numerous acquisitions including:

  • M1 from Bowen and Groves (2009) – ERP software for manufacturers
  • Acsellerate (2010) – subscription-based analytics and sales intelligence solution
  • FM Audit (2011) – print assessment, remote meter, supply and service data applications
  • BlueSky Systems Solutions (2012) – back office systems for the European office products industry
  • Red Cheetah Software (2013) – e-commerce solutions for the office products industry (Red Falcon)
  • Naverisk (2015) – remote monitoring and management solutions
  • JumpTrack from JumpTechnologies (2015) – proof of delivery solution

Within the office technology industry ECi is best known for its e-automate, FM Audit, La Crosse, DDMS, Naverisk, and Red Falcon solutions that are widely used by office products and equipment dealers, imaging VARs, managed services providers, and direct sales operations of several equipment vendors. The company has numerous partners and has integrated its software with over 30 partners including:

  • Manufacturers (Canon, HP, Kyocera, Konica Minolta, Lexmark, Ricoh, Toshiba, and Xerox)
  • Suppliers (Azerty, Carolina Wholesale, Katun, LMI, Polek & Polek, Supplies Network, Synnex, Tech Data, TriMega, West Point, etc.)
  • Operations management ISVs (BEI Services, CEOJuice, ConnectWise, Compass Sales Solutions, Print Audit, Print Fleet, U.S. Fleet Tracking, etc.)
  • Leasing companies (CIT, De Lage Landen, Great America, LEAF, US Bank, Wells Fargo)

We do not view this acquisition as part of the “Great Industry Reset” that has been going on in the office technology industry for the last few years with consolidation in the channel, company splits, and acquisitions and divestitures of business units. The Carlyle Group is cashing in on its investment (in a relatively short period) while Apax is strengthening its portfolio in the Tech sector.

The organization of assets under Ron Books is a big vote of confidence for his leadership and management team. We expect Books will continue to charge forward moving products into the cloud, integrating solutions within the portfolio and with external partners, and hunting for additional acquisition opportunities.

We expect ECi will have the resources to build out a greater global presence and acquire other software and services companies. While ECi has generally focused on smaller niche firms, it may now have the critical mass and financial backing to take on bigger firms where there is a strong strategic fit.

Our sense is this acquisition makes it less likely that ECi will be acquired in the next few years by a strategic office technology buyer (e.g. OEM, supplies manufacturer) given the growing portion of business associated with the manufacturing industry. However, ECi’s products are relatively segregated by market segment (manufacturing, building and construction, field and IT service, distribution) and the business assets could be packaged up for the right price.

ECi continues to execute on its strategy of enabling SMBs in select vertical markets to automate their operations. With the combination of Apax’s business assets and financial resources ECi is stronger in the SMB ERP manufacturing space and is well positioned for continued investments in its other markets.

 

Jeff Hayes
Managing Director

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