Case Study | Advent International

Technology, Media & Telecom

Unit4

www.unit4.com
Country Netherlands
Sector Technology, Media & Telecom
Deal type Public-to-private
Investment date March 2014
Status Unrealized investment

Unit4 is a global enterprise resource planning (ERP) software vendor based in the Netherlands. Traded on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange until its delisting in 2014, the company offers accounting, payroll, HR and vertical-specific software to people-centric organizations. It also owns a significant majority stake in FinancialForce.com, a fast-growing, cloud-based ERP vendor formed in partnership with Salesforce.com. With operations in 26 countries across Europe, North America, Asia Pacific and Africa, Unit4 generated revenue of €491 million in 2013.

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SHARED AMBITION
TO ACCELERATE GROWTH

As part of Advent International’s proactive sourcing efforts in the ERP sector, we built a relationship with Unit4’s founder, Chris Ouwinga, and developed a shared ambition to take the company private and make the long-term investments needed to accelerate growth and innovation. We made a public offer to acquire Unit4 in November 2013 and completed the transaction in March 2014. Ouwinga and Unit4’s senior management team rolled over a portion of their equity as part of the transaction for a minority stake in the business.

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“The technology industry is at an inflection point, where social, mobile, analytics and cloud technologies are creating significant growth opportunities in the ERP market,” said John Woyton, a director in Advent’s London office. “In Unit4, we see a company that, with Advent’s support and investment, is well-placed to benefit from these trends.”

Two independent operating partners—Léo Apotheker, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and co-CEO of SAP, and Bret Bolin, former CEO of Misys and P2 Energy Solutions—assisted Advent during the transaction and joined Unit4’s board following the acquisition. They were also instrumental in developing the value creation plan and are now supporting management in its execution.

 

KEY VALUE CREATION PILLARS

Unit4 now has a clear, long-range value creation plan centered on customer success, employee engagement and a high-performance culture. The plan consists of four key pillars:

  • Pursuing organic and inorganic growth—To expedite and accelerate product roadmaps, the company is making major investments in social, mobile, analytics and cloud technologies and several new vertical-specific solutions. It is also executing a targeted acquisition strategy to consolidate the fragmented ERP industry and acquire leading-edge capabilities.
  • Driving operational excellence—The plan calls for methodic and continual improvements in sales-force effectiveness, brand and marketing impact, product development efficacy and efficiency, and customer success and support.
  • Developing FinancialForce.com—Advent has committed significant capital to build operational infrastructure capable of supporting long-term and sustainable growth. We believe FinancialForce has the potential to become a highly strategic player in the cloud ERP software market.
  • Investing in human capital—Soon after completing the investment, we helped Unit4’s CEO recruit a new CFO and COO and create five new group executive roles to enable more transparency. At FinancialForce, we helped bring on a new CFO and three new executives and recruited Kevin Costello, former president of Ariba, to chair the business.

Although our investment is relatively recent, Unit4 is growing in line with plan across its various business segments. “By engaging with Advent,” José Duarte, CEO of Unit4, recalls, “we found that we had the right partner—with the right industry knowledge and a long-term perspective on the business—to make our company even stronger.”

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