EXCLUSIVE-Thoma Bravo prepares Blue Coat for sale -sources

Mon Jan 27, 2014 8:26pm GMT

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Jan 27 (Reuters) - Private equity firm Thoma Bravo LLC is exploring the sale of network security company Blue Coat Systems Inc and is expected to choose Goldman Sachs Group Inc to lead the effort, according to three sources close to the situation.

While the sale process has not officially kicked off, Blue Coat has already started to attract interest from private equity firms and large tech vendors. Possible suitors could include IBM , Oracle Corp and Hewlett-Packard Co, one of the sources said.

Blue Coat, which San Francisco-based Thoma Bravo bought in February 2012 for $1.3 billion, operates in an area where businesses and governments are increasingly spending more to counter and contain cyber security threats.

Its products are used to speed up data flow over the Internet and block inappropriate websites and cyber attacks.

The company has gone from roughly $75 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) at the time of its buyout to $200 million in EBITDA today, one of the sources said. Blue Coat could now fetch around $2 billion or more, another of the sources added.

The people asked not to be identified because the sale process is confidential. Thoma Bravo, Goldman Sachs, IBM, HP and Oracle declined to comment. Blue Coat did not respond to requests for comment.

Since going private, Blue Coat has increased its scale through a number of acquisitions. Last year it announced several deals including ones with anti-malware company Norman Shark, security analytics specialist Solera Networks, which uses data mining to detect potential security threats, and Netronome's SSL technology, which helps inspect Internet traffic.

In 2012, it announced the acquisition of network security platform Crossbeam Systems.

In recent months, Thoma Bravo, which has more than $4 billion in assets, has earned big profits selling its portfolio companies. Since November, the private equity firm announced the sale of four assets, including mobile banking company Digital Insight Inc to NCR Corp for $1.65 billion.

Thoma Bravo is currently in the process of selling management software company LANDesk Software Inc and is expected to receive first round bids by next week, one of the sources said.

Meanwhile, Hyland Software Inc, another Thoma Bravo portfolio company, though not actively exploring a sale, is in talks with a strategic party and has hired Goldman Sachs to manage inbound interest, Reuters previously reported.

Representatives for LANDesk and Hyland were not immediately available for comment. (Additional reporting by Greg Roumeliotis)