Today came the news from the ASX that Altium shares have been put on a voluntary trading halt:
“Pending an announcement by Altium in relation to a proposed capital raising by institutional investors”
Now, this is very interesting indeed for several reasons:
- Altium have not taken investment since they originally publicly floated the company 15 years ago in 1999 in order to raise capital to buy several companies and their technology in order to get into the embedded system/FPGA space (which they ultimately failed at as everyone but them expected).
- Altium has always, and continues to have essentially zero debt.
- Altium has plenty of cash in the bank, $22M of it or so.
- Altium is about to announce their new FREE (+ low cost) package and enter the low cost PCB tool market as they have promised.
- Altium has record sales, and the highest share price in over a decade.
So why does a company with zero debt, a lot of cash, record sales, a new product about to (hopefully) shake up a new market, and no real history taking money, want with a sudden influx of money from institutional investors?
Companies take money in order to expand into bigger markets and/or buy companies to enable that to happen. So it can’t be because they want to hire more staff, they could easily do that with the cash to hand. And that would of course be a silly reason for any institution to invest in them. And it can’t be because they want to buy some small-time company, they could also do that with the cash to hand.
So what’s left? Well, it seems pretty obvious that Altium is gearing up for a big acquisition (or two?).
It seems that someone has caught wind of this in the last week or two, because the share price has rocketed just before the trading halt.
I wonder is any other related company has also jumped? Hmm…
So who is Altium going to buy with all this influx of new institutional cash?
Whoever it is I certainly hope they don’t blow it like they did with several acquisitions on the past (*cough* 15% of the company for Morfik *cough*).
But is seems Altium are much more level headed these days, so I think they will do something good with it.
Altium does have several weaknesses in key areas needed to enable their push into the higher end of the market as they have promised investors. Things like signal integrity, auto routing, simulation, thermal analysis, and you can no doubt think of other areas.
Polar Instruments immediately comes to mind. That would give them the signal integrity solution they badly need.
An Autorouter that actually works would be high on the list too.
Altium Designer has great 3D CAD integration, but no 3D CAD editing capability. So it wouldn’t surprise me if they bought a 3D CAD tool company for better integration there.
And before anyone mentions it, no, I’m pretty sure they are not buying Eagle or another low end player. Because Altium really do have their own free / low cost package coming out soon to compete head-to-head with Eagle and others. It’s real, I’ve been given a sneak peek at it, because they wanted my feedback on it after my rant shook them up a bit and helped them change direction (for the better):
Not only that, but Eagle wouldn’t be for sale, it is far too strategically important to Element 14. Forget that.
One thing that does scare me is the further emphasis on the Internet of Things and Web 3.0, and all that cloudy stuff. They call it a “Mega Trend”. Can you hear the groan from here? I sure hope they keep focus on the core PCB tool (as they have promised), and not go off on some silly adventure buying a cloud services company or some such. But hey, I wouldn’t put it past them.
A component search and integration company wouldn’t surprise me though, that is another key emerging area. And/or perhaps with the new push into the Maker market they want to own and tie in a PCB manufacturer and assembler? That would make sense from a strategic point of view.
One thing is for sure, Altium know who they want to buy and would have pitched this to the institutional investors. I can’t see anyone giving them money for just “whatever” future use they haven’t thought about yet.
What do you think?
And who do you think Altium will or should buy with all this new money?