July 2, 2018 / 6:59 AM / 5 months ago

UK's Micro Focus sells SUSE software business to EQT for $2.5 billion

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s Micro Focus Intl (MCRO.L) has agreed to sell its SUSE open-source enterprise software business to Swedish buyout group EQT Partners for $2.535 billion, lifting its shares 6 percent.

A sign stands outside the offices of Micro Focus in Newbury, Britain, September 8, 2016. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

Micro Focus, a serial acquirer that has been struggling to get to grips with a $8.8 billion Hewlett Packard Enterprise deal, said on Monday it would use some of the proceeds to reduce debt and could return some of the rest to shareholders.

SUSE is used by banks, universities and government agencies around the world and is a pioneer in enterprise-grade Linux software serving companies such as Air India, Daimler and Total.

It has been part of Micro Focus since 2014, when the British company acquired The Attachmate Group for $2.35 billion, and SUSE Linux competes with Red Hat (RHT.N) and Ubuntu in the corporate market for open source operating systems software.

Micro Focus, which manages older software for customers including banks and airlines, has run SUSE as a semi-independent division.

EQT said as the new owner it would help SUSE hire software engineers to expand the products it offers.

“Investment into engineers was somewhat restricted under prior ownership. That will change,” EQT’s Johannes Reichel said.

A product line that helps companies ensure any temporary purchase of computing power from cloud suppliers like Google or Amazon works frictionlessly with their own servers is seen as one of the main growth drivers, he added.

TRADE WARS

The company is hoping to benefit from increasing trade tensions between the U.S. and Europe, in which some do not want to solely rely on peers such as U.S.-based Red Hat.

“Against the backdrop of increasing trade conflicts, corporate customers appreciate an infrastructure software supplier with European origins,” Reichel said.

SUSE generated revenue of $303 million and adjusted operating profit of $98.7 million in the year to end-April 2017, Micro Focus said.

Micro Focus said it believed the price EQT fund was paying, representing a multiple of about 7.9 times revenue and 26.7 times adjusted operating profit for the year to end-October, was “highly attractive”.

“It was clear from the outset that the SUSE Business was an outstanding business with great people, great customers and fantastic products in a vibrant and dynamic market,” Executive Chairman Kevin Loosemore said.

Micro Focus was advised by Numis and SCA while EQT was advised by Jefferies and Arma Partners.

Additional reporting by Eric Auchard; editing by Kate Holton and Alexander Smith

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