As equity markets see a modest rotation away from large-cap tech stocks in the aftermath of Donald Trump's election victory, a company headed by the chair of Trump's CEO-filled Strategic and Policy Forum is raising cash by unloading one of its most valuable tech assets.
It could be a coincidence, or perhaps just reflective of the fact that some P-E firms aren't exactly in a buying mood when it comes to tech, following a multi-year bull run. Or perhaps not.
Three weeks after filing to take IT security services provider Optiv Security public, Blackstone (BX) has announced it's selling a majority stake in Optiv to fellow investment firm KKR (KKR) . Terms are undisclosed, but a New York Times column published shortly before the agreement was announced suggest the deal is worth nearly $2 billion. For reference, Optiv had pro forma revenue of $972.6 million and adjusted EBITDA of $97.5 million in 2015.
Optiv is the latest in a string of tech-related acquisitions for KKR. This year, the company has also bought ERP software provider Epicor in a $3.3 billion deal, and snapped up contact center software provider Calabrio in a deal reportedly worth $200 million.
Regarding Blackstone, it should be noted that the company was apparently open to an Optiv sale long before Trump's win. Bloomberg reported in April Blackstone was getting set to take Optiv public while simultaneously exploring a sale (the proverbial dual-track process).
In addition, Blackstone has been cautious this year when it comes to tech dealmaking, at least with regards to U.S. firms. Two of its largest tech deals have involved Indian companies -- a $170 million investment in travel tech firm IBS, and the purchase of a controlling stake in IT outsourcing provider MphasiS from HP Enterprise (HPE) in a deal worth up to $1.1 billion. Blackstone also teamed with New Mountain Capital to invest $570 million in U.S.-based supply chain software firm JDA Software.
Still, the timing of the Optiv deal is noteworthy. Just four days ago, Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman was named the chairman of the Strategic and Policy Forum. The Forum, which also features the likes of GM (GM) CEO Mary Barra, JPMorgan (JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon and Disney (DIS) CEO Bob Iger, will advise Trump on various economic and business policy matters.
Beyond that, Schwarzman has been eager to voice his optimism about the regulatory environment a Trump Administration will provide for businesses. "Things are going to change, and I think things are going to change a lot," he declared during a November talk. On Tuesday, Schwarzman predicted Trump's victory would lead to a "very substantial reversal of regulations of all types" for the financial sector.
But for tech, the policy changes expected to be produced by a Trump Administration are generally seen as a mixed bag at best, with offshore and corporate tax reforms offset by potentially unfavorable policies on trade, immigration and net neutrality. By contrast, Trump's win is seen as a more clear-cut positive for financial, energy, infrastructure and pharma companies, among others.
One can't help but wonder if Schwarzman, who appears to have Trump's ear, feels that it's in Blackstone's interests to lower its exposure to tech relative to other sectors in such an environment.