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Arris looks like the right home for SeaChange as it looks for bids

Talks have been made public between Seachange International, the VoD server and content aggregation business and Arris, one of the leading US cable eq

By PETER WHITE

Published: 2 June, 2011

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Talks have been made public between Seachange International, the VoD server and content aggregation business and Arris, one of the leading US cable equipment suppliers. The SeaChange stock price jumped around 12% to $350 million when the news broke last Friday and the market loved the idea so much that the Arris share price also went up – something that doesn’t usually happen when a company buys a smaller business.

The news broke in the Wall Street Journal and it said that sources had told it the two had been talking for months now. It also said that TiVo, NDS, and buyout firm Permira had been in the running when SeaChange had first said that it was seeking strategic alternatives.

This would largely be seen as a general merging of VoD interests, given that C-Cor bought nCube in 2005, one of the pioneers of video servers, and was itself acquired by Arris in 2007. With Seachange and rivals like Concurrent, these companies have provided much of the US pay TV operator’s VoD requirements along with one or two other companies.

All of them through the mid-2000s sued each other over VoD patents, now long since resolved.

The last major acquisition by Arris was back in 2009 when it bought Digeo the set top interface designer for $20 million in cash.

Arris has almost $620 million in cash on its balance sheet, is cash positive and has been throughout the recession, has a revenue run rate over $1 billion and a stock market valuation of $1.37 billion (rather low in our opinion).

SeaChange these days breaks its sales into software, hardware and media services. The hardware is mostly off the shelf servers being resold, and the software has come about as it has followed the modern trend of no longer making specialist hardware for VoD. Its software sales for last year were 72% of its revenues. Content, which is the aggregation of movies mostly by the SeaChange subsidiary On Demand Group, accounted for $28 million out of $216 million last year. However it made $29 million net income on this revenue, a far better margin that the industry at large, after tough times during the previous year when it barely broke even. It achieved this fresh profitability mostly through aggressive cost cutting during 2010.

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