So much news: acquisitions, divestitures, non-deals and an appreciation

May 9, 2024 | Hot Topics

Last week, I was in the Cotswolds in England. It was gorgeous; I’ll tell you more about it some other time — but, oh my goodness, the PLMish world kept going! Yes, there’s lots of earnings news, much of which isn’t the most upbeat, but we also have other things to talk about:

First, an appreciation for Ken Versprille. CIMdata announced last month that Ken had passed away after a short illness. Ken and I spent a lot of time figuring out our overlap at Computervision, where he was, at various times, VP of R&D and the lead in designing the CADDS 4 3D graphics engine. But that was in the past, and what I really enjoyed in more recent years was watching people’s faces when they realized he was THAT Ken Versprille, the inventor of NURBS, aka Non-Uniform Rational B-Splines. You can read a great story about that part of Ken’s work here. Of course, our thoughts are with his family and colleagues — especially his kids and grandkids; Ken just glowed when he talked about them. Ken was smart, acerbic, funny, and kind, and I will miss him very much.

On to acquisitions. You may have seen the rumors that Bentley Systems was up for grabs, along with some very unlikely acquirers and a few more possible ones. Bentley said this and Schneider Electric said this and other names being tossed around said … nothing. Two things to remember: Bentley is a big, big company, with a lot of revenue and a high market cap ($16.4 billion as I type this on 9 May). That means it would be expensive and complicated to integrate — but for the right buyer, it could be a fantastic asset. Second: I do not believe Siemens still has any meaningful stake in Bentley (contrary to some news reports) — that doesn’t mean Siemens can’t be involved in these discussions, if any are happening, just that they don’t have an inside edge.

But there were real deals announced while I was busy climbing up (and up and up — a very hilly trail). 

Altair has been on a tear lately, acquiring Cambridge Semantics and Research in Flight over the last few weeks. Altair CEO Jim Scapa says, “Cambridge Semantics brings the fastest and most scalable knowledge graphs to organizations who have significant data volumes and deep questions.” Why does this matter? Because “knowledge graphs are critical for successful generative AI applications as they provide the business context necessary to ground generative AI models, eliminate hallucinations, and dramatically improve response quality.”

Research in Flight makes FlightStream, a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) toolset for (you guessed it) the  aerospace and defense sector — but, according to the press release, “a growing presence in marine, energy, turbomachinery, and automotive applications.” Also per Altair, “FlightStream is a user-friendly, yet powerful flow solver … [whose] exceptionally fast computational speeds and low hardware footprint, coupled with a streamlined user interface and robust aerodynamic solver, make it an invaluable tool for early-stage rapid design iterations and in-depth aerodynamic studies for aerospace and defense applications and beyond.” No details.

OUTSCALE, the Dassault Systèmes brand for ready-to-use cloud solutions, announced the acquisition of Satelliz, a company specialized in the development and operation of Kubernetes services, bolstered by its 24/7 management expertise. DS says Satelliz will enable OUTSCALE to expand its managed services offerings with 24/7 managed Kubernetes services. (I honestly don’t know what that means, but I will be with DS at the end of May to learn more.) Financial details were not disclosed.

Graitec, a maker of AEC solutions and proud Autodesk partner, announced that it has acquired Ideate Software, maker of plug-ins for Autodesk Revit, and PRODWARE INNOVATION DESIGN, a French Autodesk reseller. Graitec says Ideate’s plug-ins help companies streamline Revit data management and control processes. The PRODWARE acquisition, on the other hand, will position Graitec “as an undisputed leader in BIM in France and further [consolidate] its international leadership in the Autodesk ecosystem for architects and engineers (AEC & MFG).” Further consolidation in the VAR world …

Tech Soft 3D continues to roll, too, announcing that it has acquired Actify’s SpinFire, CAD Publisher and Centro — CAD viewers and collaboration tools. Tech Soft 3D CEO Ron Fritz, said that Actify was a long-term user of HOOPS and had built “SpinFire [to] a strong market position, and we are enthusiastic about leveraging our extensive expertise to enhance collaboration across engineering teams.” Details were not announced, but it’s worth noting that Tech Soft 3D is backed by the investment firm Battery Ventures.

Finally, Hexagon announced that it has acquired Xwatch Safety Solutions. Xwatch makes machine control hardware and software that improve safety on construction sites — think sensors and analytics to measure and control an excavator bucket’s height or to define a safety zone around a piece of heavy machinery. Xwatch is tiny, and no purchase details were given.

But it’s not all buying — there’s some selling to report on, too.  Recall that Synopsys is working with regulators on the details of its proposed acquisition of Ansys. At the same time, it was exploring options to sell its Software Integrity Group business — both to raise cash for the Ansys deal and to streamline its ongoing businesses. Earlier this week, Synopsys announced that it had reached agreement with Clearlake Capital and Francisco Partners, two private equity firms, for the sale of the Software Integrity Group in a transaction with a total value of up to $2.1 billion. You can read about the “up to” part of the deal in the announcement —the price is contingent upon specific success metrics— but the consensus seems to be that this sale is a good thing and that it leaves Synopsys free to concentrate on closing the deal with Ansys.

And one more thing, a non-acquisition. My mailbox blew up when Nemetschek and Autodesk issued press releases about “Advancing Open, Interoperable Workflows for the Entire Building Lifecycle.” It’s an agreement to work together, NOT one buying the other. In essence, the companies will work together to “improve open collaboration and efficiencies for the architecture, engineering, construction, and operations (AEC/O) and media and entertainment (M&E) industries.” They already do a lot of this, so this press release was an updated stake in the ground, covering the companies’ new positioning and product portfolios: “Optimizing workflows … connecting Nemetschek’s dTwin, Bluebeam Cloud, BIMcloud, and BIMplus industry clouds to Autodesk’s industry clouds—Forma, Fusion, and Flow—and design solutions through Autodesk Platform Services (APS), a set of open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and web services.” Nope. Not an acquisition.

Back soon with earnings recaps.

The cover image is of the Vale of Evesham, just below Broadway Tower, taken by me. Wow. Pasted again here, so you can see all of it:

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