Become A Member!
This is a printer friendly page!
one year report card shows them creating and realizing value with their IT and life
sciences companies using their five part game plan of reposition, time, ignite, augment
Safeguard Scientifics, Inc.
435 Devon Park Drive, Building 800
Wayne, PA 19087
Peter J. Boni
President and CEO
Interview conducted by:
Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor
October 26, 2006
Peter J. Boni
Chief Exec. Officer, Pres,
As President and Chief Executive Officer of Safeguard, Peter J. Boni
draws on more than 20 years of experience as the CEO of
technology companies in all stages of growth, as well as experience as an operating
partner with a large global private equity firm. With both deal savvy and operating
expertise culled from a successful career, Peter is responsible for developing and
executing Safeguard's strategy. His goal is to build on the companys heritage of
identifying businesses in the Information Technology and Life Sciences sectors with
superior growth potential, and applying Safeguard's capital and strategic, operational and
management resources to enhance long-term value for shareholders, partner companies and
Safeguard is a holding company that builds value in high-growth, revenue-stage information
technology and life sciences businesses. We provide growth capital as well as a range of
strategic, operational and management resources to our partner companies. We participate
in expansion financings, corporate spinouts, management buyouts, recapitalizations,
industry consolidations and early-stage financings.
CEOCFO: Mr. Boni, what is your vision and what attracted you
to the company?
Mr. Boni: I was attracted to Safeguard Scientifics
because it was a 50 year old company with a great history of building market leaders and
providing capital to entrepreneurs. Today it is positioned as a holding company for
information technology and life sciences businesses. We have a definitive comparative
strategy and real differentiation, and an experienced management team. We have been at
this game plan for about a year and we have a strong first year report card, where we have
created value and realized that value. We have a very attractive exit that we just
announced for one of our companies that produced a significant gain for us on top of that.
We have a five-part game plan: reposition, time, ignite, augment and execute. We are
repositioning from an operating company to holding company mindset where operators hold
and then harvest for the earnings that come in. Holding companies build value and then
time their exits for a maximum risk adjusted gain. We have ignited our deal machinery and
augmented our organization and we are executing our strategy boldly. Our vision, simply
stated, is that we are a preferred catalyst. We build value and create great information
technology and life sciences companies.
CEOCFO: Why is this the
time to change to a holding company?
Mr. Boni: Safeguard has had many iterations, and it had
a holding company mindset going back to its earlier days. Many people have made a great
deal of gain with the Safeguard model. Back in the internet days, the company was
positioned as an internet incubator and when the bubble was expanding, life was really
good. But when the bubble burst, lots of companies that were positioned in that field
really took a hit. Safeguard brought in a new chief executive who took an operating
mindset that tried to rationalize all of the irrational exuberance at that time. The guy
worked for a four-year period and did a wonderful job of rationalizing. He divested or
closed 30 of the 40 holdings, put $200 million dollars and the balance sheet structured
the depth and gave me a stable platform with which to formulate the going forward
CEOCFO: With all of the ideas out there, how do you decide
what you want to take on?
Mr. Boni: We have five strategic themes that we seek
and these strategic themes we find in present in both the IT and the life sciences arena.
If you remember your high school algebra, M squared C cubed -- maturity,
migration, convergence, compliance and cost containment. For example, the population is
maturing, medicines have their patents expiring, the IT infrastructure is maturing, the
industry is consolidating, and there is a migration of business models and technologies
going from one place to the other, such as analog to digital. There is also the perpetual
software-licensing model giving way to the on-demand Software as a Service
model. There is a convergence of information technologies within life sciences. And within
life sciences; you have diagnostics, devices and drug delivery, so that all converges as
well. Regulatory compliance is driving buying behavior; the FDA, the Patriot Act, I can go
on and on. Cost containment is the watchword of the day, whether it is spiraling
healthcare costs, or the spiraling maintenance costs build into the IT infrastructure.
Therefore, major strategic themes like this attract entrepreneurial activity and thats
Safeguards game plan and business plan. We are looking for entrepreneurs in IT and
life sciences. We will partner with them to build the product and we will provide
somewhere between $5million and $50 million per deal depending on whether it is expansion
financing or a recapitalization, or M&A transaction, corporate spinout or management
buyout or even early stage. There are target companies that we look for in IT and we have
some targets that we have defined in life sciences. In the IT segment, we look for
enterprise applications; things that are analytic or data driven and pieces of the IT
infrastructure, which could be security or communication. We like newer business models
that come with recurring revenue streams; it could be software, service, a technology
enabled service, or a specific vertical software solution. A few vertical markets have
more attraction than others, such as financial services, healthcare, life sciences and
certain internet-based businesses. For life sciences, it is the four Ds -- devices,
diagnostics, and drug delivery for specialty pharma. The verticals that we seek tend to
mirror the life cycle of a life sciences product.
From a geography standpoint, Safeguard has a 50-year
branded footprint in the mid-Atlantic region. That has spilled over to the Southeast,
Midwest and even the southern provinces of central and eastern U.S., and that is where the
outbound deal sourcing is very strong, but inbound deal sourcing could come from anywhere.
We are looking for revenue stage companies needing $5 to $50 million in capital, where we
could be the primary shareholder or a minority shareholder. This would be in a market that
is sizable enough, where the competitive advantages of the firm are realized, and have a
view of how we are going to realize value. That is the driver of this companys
CEOCFO: Why are the
companies that choose to go under your umbrella going with Safeguard?
Mr. Boni: Safeguard has spawned a half a dozen or so
venture capital firms over its 50-year heritage. Many people view Safeguard as a venture
capital firm or a private equity firm. We are different in many respects. We do not play
as early as the venture capital community, we do not play as late as the private equity;
we are somewhat of a tweener. But Safeguard Scientifics is a public company, so from an
investor vantage point you can put in a little or a lot, and they are immediately liquid.
We offer transparency into the performance of the company so that you can actually see
your progress. The venture capital and private equity communities cloak their portfolios
in a great deal of secrecy. We are never forced to do a premature exit to return capital
to limited partners. The business model is entirely different; the money on our balance
sheet is protected from taxes, unlike the venture capital and private equity communities
that have to raise funds every three years. Their exit strategy and timetables are
different. Therefore, there is far more patience built into our model. We also have a
C-level staff of people that have occupied the entrepreneurial seat in the past. We give
not only strategic guidance, but also operational support services along the way to really
help a company grow. This is opposed to having a bright group that is good at analyzing
the return structure on a deal, but with no operational expertise.
CEOCFO: Will you give us
an example of one or two of the companies that best represent what you do?
Mr. Boni: A good example now is Mantas, Inc.; Mantas
was a spinout of a DoD related company that Safeguard acquired a 33% stake in back in
2001. The ownership grew from 33% to 88% over a couple of financings. It provided an
analytical piece of software that enabled fraud detection and it was applied to the
anti-money laundering application that was indicated by the Patriot Act. It has been
recognized as the best of breed solution. This business was built from scratch
to a $35 million revenue base, now with over 20% EBITDA margins. We have accepted an offer
to sell the difference to i-flex® solutions, which is a majority owned company of Oracle
Corporation (NASDAQ: ORCL), for $122.6 million in cash plus the cash that is on their
balance sheet. The valuation metrics on this are very positive. The industry average
financially related to software companies is 2.4 times revenue or 11.2 times EBITDA. We
were able to negotiate a deal that was a 46% premium on the revenue model and an 88%
premium on the EBITDA multiple. We know that Oracle/i-flex will find this a highly
accretive transaction for them, given the leverage points that they have on their
business. Oracle has set up i-flex® as their method of penetrating the financial services
world. There is Mantas -- 100% focused in on anti-money laundering applications -- with
all the big Kahunas in financial services as its customer base. It is highly leverageable
for them and a wonderful exit at a premium valuation for us. We helped that company build
itself from grassroots to where it is today. We trained their CEO and executive staff and
gave them the operational support services to get to where they are. However, the CEO and
management team ran that business; we did not run it for them.
CEOCFO: Why should
potential investors be interested in the company and why is now an appropriate time to
Mr. Boni: Now is a great time when you look at the
Safeguard business model and its balance sheet. It has an exceptionally strong balance
sheet, and a very valuable group of partner companies. We have 16 companies that are
holdings today, six are majority owned, the remainder are minority owned and three are
public. Their performance is very visible and their improvement in their performance
continues. We have had six consecutive quarters of double-digit revenue growth, anywhere
from twenty-six to forty-plus percent revenue growth over the last six Quarters. We have a
very distinct business model as a holding company. Reported revenues are from majority
companies only, but we have another ten companies that are minority owned. So the way to
really recognize value for Safeguard isnt by the revenue and EBITDA model, it is the
net asset value model. Our NAV has yet to be recognized in our shareholder value. On top
of that, we have $370 million of net operating losses that will protect any exit from
taxation. We have an example of using that with a very significant gain that we expect
from the sale of Mantas, Inc., today. If you look at Safeguard from a valuation
standpoint, we are selling at a substantial discount to what the market value might be for
any of our holdings.
CEOCFO: How do you get
people to pay attention?
Mr. Boni: I have been on board with the management team
for about a year. I mentioned we had a phase I game plan -- reposition, time, ignite,
augment and execute. We are at the point where we have some very demonstrable success to
feature in the execution portion of our game plan and we are making that
visible. The gain that we will realize through the sale of Mantas really puts a proof
point on the driver of our economic engine. We are continually providing tools to the
financial community for them to realize or recognize the underlying NAV within the
company. There are several ways that we have executed our five-point game plan; we are a
holding company today with sixteen different firms. We have timed five different exits for
maximum risk adjusted value. We have sold some private equity holdings that we had in Q4
of last year for $24 million along with an under-utilized facility at one of our
companies. That enabled us to produce a small profit in Q4. This outfit that we recently
sold to ORACLE is very focused on financial services and had a small unit that was telecom
focused; we sold that earlier this year for a couple of million dollars to improve the
operating performance of the firm and get it highly focused in its core market. One of our
firms, Alliance Consulting sold a regional operation realized a small gain on that. Then
we had the giant gain with Mantas, so we have had five different exits that were well
timed to maximize risk-adjusted value. We have ignited our deal machinery; we have seven
transactions that we have done since I have been onboard starting with the acquisition of
a firm called Acsis, Inc., of Marlton, NJ, that does supply chain automation that we
acquired in Q-4 of 2005, and then another six transactions this calendar year.
We acquired a 12% stake in a software security firm called Authentium, Inc. of West Palm
Beach, FL, a 34% stake in a new-age medical devices company called Rubicor Medical, Inc.
of Redwood City, CA. We acquired a 28% stake in NuPathe, Inc. of Conshohocken, Pennsylvania,
which is a specialty pharma company, and a 46% stake in a company called Portico
Systems (formerly FMG Technologies, Inc.) of Conshohocken, PA., that does healthcare IT.
Healthcare IT itself is a business that is doubling in size over the next five years from
$ 17 to $35 billion in size. Two of our companies have also acquired a couple of
businesses. Therefore, in total we have had seven transactions igniting our deal
machinery. We augment our organization both internally and externally. I have made a
variety of executive appointments and promotions within Safeguard, including managers of
our IT and life sciences group. We brought in a vice president, an M.D., and associates in
our life sciences group. We have augmented our legal and financial staff to provide the
support services that a larger group of holdings will require. We have also augmented the
organization within some of our partner companies. We have upgraded two CEO and CFO
positions and brought in a VP of product development, and VP of sales and marketing, and
actually increased the independent board of directors in each of our holdings. We have
augmented our organization externally with alliances, syndication, partnerships and IT and
life sciences advisory boards. We have augmented our board of directors with an individual
that has IT, life sciences, private equity and holding company executive experience. We
have a strategy and we have executed boldly on that strategy. We have been delivering
results. We are the catalyst to build IT and life sciences businesses.
Any reproduction or further distribution of this
article without the express written consent of CEOCFOinterviews.com is prohibited.