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4 on a Friday: More on Bentley+Seequent, Markforged to go public, US infrastructure grade upped from D to C+, and Renishaw is for sale

4 on a Friday: More on Bentley+Seequent, Markforged to go public, US infrastructure grade upped from D to C+, and Renishaw is for sale

Mar 12, 2021 | Hot Topics

Time for a recap of the week, news bits I don’t have time to write about in more detail.

Let’s start with Bentley. Late yesterday, Bentley announced that it would be acquiring Seequent, maker of solutions for modeling the earth deep below the surface; I wrote about it here. Today, Bentley held a conference call for investors, where CEO Greg Bentley shared a bit more about the rationale for the combination. You can listen to a replay here, but I was most surprised to hear Mr. Bentley say that a lot of projects (tall buildings, subways and tunnels, hillsides next to roads — not so much mines and dams) don’t use sophisticated techniques to model the earth below the project — they may not even know what utility lines are buried near the surface, let alone the rock and soil deep below. Mines and dams do a better job at this because of the risk and rewards of those assets, but there’s a huge opportunity to level up the modeling used across AEC to ensure greater fidelity for environmental and disaster assessments, and to de-risk projects of all sorts. Mr. Bentley said he expects this acquisition to leapfrog Bentley ahead in its ability to address many segments of its customer base. (Leapfrog is a play on words; that’s the name of one of Seequent’s products.) Factoids about Seequent:

  • it’s currently active across civil, environmental, mining, and energy verticals (though it does not do reservoir modeling)
  • Bentley and Seequent already partner to provide 3D earth models to Plaxis, Bentley’s geotechnical offering. Mr. Bentley said this means that “there’s no huge agenda to work down” and that integrating Seequent’s cloud services with Bentley’s “shouldn’t take very long”
  • Seequent will operate as a standalone business, with Mr. Bentley keen to keep it focused on its existing products, trajectories, and relationships. He sees no immediate changes to how the company interacts with customers
  • Seequent is “growing significantly faster than Bentley — while maintaining impressive margins”, CFO David Hollister said, later adding that investors could think of it growing at “double Bentley’s growth rate”.

The Seequent acquisition is subject to regulatory approvals, but is expected in June.

Markforged announced that it will become a public company by merging with an SPAC, a special purpose acquisition company, later this year. SPACs are created solely to conduct an IPO to acquire an existing company. Anyway, Markforged makes the Digital Forge, an additive manufacturing platform powering that “seamlessly combines best-in-class machines, software, and both metal and composite materials to empower engineers and designers to go from a design to a functional part more efficiently”. Once completed, Markforged is expected to have an equity value of approximately $2.1 billion and be listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol MKFG.

The US’s infrastructure is in trouble. Drive on most roads and across many bridges and you’ll see crumbling cement, peeling paint, and potholes– oh, the potholes. In 2017, the American Society of Civil Engineers made headlines when its overview of the state of the state graded it, on average, with a D (on a scale from A to F, with F being a fail — and I don’t think there’s ever an E, so a D is bad). Last week, ASCE gave an update, changing the grade to a C-. With no irony at all, ASCE said this is the “highest overall grade since the Society began issuing its quadrennial assessments in the late 1990s. Although much work remains to be done, the progress indicates the benefits that can result from increased funding, better asset management, and technological improvements.” Given that the US government is going to start working on an Infrastructure spending bill sometime soon, this couldn’t be more timely. For our PLMish world, that bill combined with the poor overall health of the infrastructure could mean opportunity — or not, if the bill prioritized shovel-ready, relatively minor repairs over more ambitious projects. Read the ASCE’s report here.

Renishaw is for sale, and the speculation of what will happen to this blue-chip company is intense. Renishaw makes high-tech precision measuring equipment, including lines of coordinate measuring machines (CMMs). Renishaw competes with Hexagon in the metrology space and has been named as a potential acquirer (but the fact that they compete may mean a deal would have a tough time getting regulatory approval, and Hexagon is focused on software deals, in any case). Renishaw’s co-founders David McMurtry and John Deer are both in their 80s now, and are looking for a new owner for their company because, as they charmingly said, “they’re not getting any younger.” They’ve told their board of directors that they’d like to sell their >50% stake in the company but only to a buyer who respects the company’s heritage and culture. This will be an interesting story to watch develop.

Have a great weekend!

The title image is from ASCE, the cover of their 2021 report.

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