In the largest deal in its history, Dassault Systèmes announced that it is acquiring the IBM sales and support operations for DS’s PLM application portfolio, including customer contracts and related assets, for approximately $600 million in cash. One stated goal of the acquisition: to simplify customer engagements. Said DS CEO Bernard Charlès, “We are creating a globally efficient sales organization to bring the value of V6 PLM applications to every enterprise in every industry… Looking forward, the wide adoption of 3D lifelike experience and PLM will require the combination of direct sales, our network of partners and online communities."”

At the same time (and likely as part of the agreement process), the companies have worked out the plans to expand their services partnership and to establish DS as an IBM Global Alliance Partner and expand their services partnership. Under this agreement, IBM and DS will continue to “jointly invest in developing, deploying and supporting client PLM environments, delivering integrated PLM solutions to their clients worldwide.”

The transaction is expected to be completed in the first half of 2010, subject to the execution of local agreements and completion of regulatory processes and applicable labor relations requirements in various countries."

It’s an interesting development. One first has to wonder about the price: $600 million is a lot of money to pay for a sales and services organization of unknown revenue and profitability. DS will justify this purchase to its shareholders in a conference call at 10AM Eastern. But Paris shareholders seem to like it; DS’s share is up 6% so far.

Next, the relationship between the two companies has been rocky for years, as DS took more and more of the IBM channel into its own operations. So this is, in some ways, a natural next step. But, again, the $600 million price tag seems steep.

Finally, companies generally make an acquisition when organic growth slows. Purchase accounting allows companies to show a giant bump in revenue in the year following an acquisition, making it appear as though the company is outperforming all others. Profitability is also important, and leads companies to acquire, when possible, “accretive” growth — meaning adding to the bottom line as well. I’m not sure how profitable a blended sales/services organization is — software margins are on the order of 80%, with services coming in significantly lower. If DS felt the need to make an acquisition to show growth, was there no profitable software company is could buy? No technology hole to fill with an acquisition?

We’ll know more after the analyst call at 10AM Eastern.