Xerox-ACS: the backstory

September 28, 2009

Xerox, which said early Monday morning it will buy Affiliated Computer Services for $6.4 billion, has had its eye on the IT services company for at least two years, but talks only began toward the end of the first quarter of 2009, several people familiar with the matter told Dealzone. Blackstone, which advised Xerox, worked with the company on this over the past 18 months, in addition to making the introductions earlier this year, according to one source.

Talks grew hot and heavy over the summer, especially as the credit market conditions improved, a second source said. Xerox has committed financing of $3 billion for this deal, which is being arranged by JPMorgan, so the deal only began to look like a real possibility once the financing side was sorted out.

ACS, which competes with other technology services providers such as Computer Sciences Corp and Accenture, is an attractive company because of its recurring revenue business model. It’s been an especially alluring target for private equity buyers, with Cerberus having offered to buy it for $62 a share in 2007. Cerberus withdrew its offer citing the credit crunch and ACS management’s refusal to engage with them. TPG was also interested in ACS about five years ago, the second source added.

Buyout firms didn’t lose the opportunity to sniff around at ACS this time around either, the sources said, although it’s not clear if the ACS management asked its bankers to run a formal sale auction.

“Every PE firm in the world that could raise the debt was kicking the tires on this one because of the cash,” said the third source.

So after doing the M&A dance for months, why did the companies rush to announce the deal on Yom Kippur, the Jewish holiday? Apparently, word got around on Sunday that Xerox was preparing a significant announcement, and some reporters were tipped off about it, two of the sources told Dealzone. But the board only ended up meeting late at night to approve the deal, and so it was considered “safe” to hold on to the announcement overnight, but not through all of Monday!

Update: From my colleague Franklin Paul, who said Xerox CEO Ursula Burns apologized to the audience on the ACS deal call “for our need to do this announcement on Yom Kippur.” “It was certainly not our intention,” Burns said, but they wanted to seal the deal before it began leaking. Certainly they did, given that Xerox has coveted ACS for a long time and probably would have hated to see the deal botched by rumors before the two sides signed on the dotted line.

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