Thursday, March 22, 2007

ACS Going Private? This time for real!

Story 1

Affiliated Computer Services Chairman Darwin Deason has joined with investment partner Cerberus Capital Management in a cash bid to take the troubled business process outsourcing company private. Cerberus has put an offer on the table to take ACS private in a US$5.9 billion buyout. That translates to $59.25 per share, a 15.5 percent premium over the ACS closing price on Monday of $51.29.

ACS has been a likely acquisition target for some time. It has been beleaguered by a backdated stock options investigation that cost the company millions of dollars and prompted the resignation of two top executives last year. Also, its image was tarnished after it languished on the market when it failed to be acquired by private equity investors at the end of 2005.

Little wonder then that the market loves the proposed deal. Shares of ACS were up 16.8% to $59.91 a share on Tuesday after Dow Jones reported that the private equity fund and ACS Founder Darwin Deason planned to buy the company. "The reaction in the market is interesting, because it has pushed the stock price above the takeover price. This is somewhat unusual. Normally, one might expect to see the stock move higher, but not quite to the takeover price -- since there is always a risk of a deal falling apart." In this case, it appears that investors are confident that ACS will fetch the full buyout price. The Dow Jones report indicates that Citigroup is funding the deal and has issued a letter stating that it is highly confident that it will obtain the necessary financing.

Story 2

New questions have arisen about the stock option backdating practices at ACS. An internal probe blamed the backdating on two ousted former executives and another former CEO. No other company executives or directors were involved, according to the company. But a handwritten note by ACS Chairman and founder Darwin Deason discussing the practice of "always" picking the "lowest prices" in a quarter to award stock options puts those assertions in question. Attorneys for Mr. Deason say the note does not imply backdating, nor does the note imply Deason did anything illegal. News of the note comes at a sensitive time. Earlier this week, Deason joined with Cerberus Capital Management to make an offer to take ACS private. Some observers have questioned whether Deason is trying to scoop up the company at a bargain price while its stock is depressed. (The Wall Street Journal, 22-Mar-2007, Midwest ed., p. A4)

1 comment:

ALD said...

Disclosure: my wife owns a small number of ACS shares due to her previous participation in an ESPP while employed there.