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Marlin Puts Asset Control on the Block with £100 million Price Tag

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Asset Control is up for sale, with owner Marlin Equity Partners looking to sell to another private equity or venture capital company, according to individuals familiar with the proposed transaction. The asking price? An astonishing eight times EBITDA, or about £100 million, according to these individuals. Marlin is believed to have paid less than £20 million to acquire Asset Control in 2013.

To make Asset Control more attractive to potential buyers, headcount has been halved from the almost 200 on payroll at the time Marlin took over from previous owners Fidelity Ventures, and surplus-to-requirements European offices have been closed to cut costs. This reduction in overhead has been accompanied by a major push to migrate the firm’s offerings to cloud and hosted service models, and the addition of open source solutions including Apache Cassandra and Cloudera.

Asset Control declines to comment on the prospect of a sale and Marlin does not return phone calls.

The launch of the Asset Control sales prospectus comes just over 18 months after the installation of former Interactive Data Corp President Mark Hepsworth as CEO, and four years after the company’s acquisition by Marlin Equity Partners from Fidelity Ventures in 2013.

The tenure of Hepsworth, the third CEO since Marlin took over the company, has been characterised by relative calm following a fairly tumultuous period in Asset Control’s history, which also saw the late pull-out of Markit from acquisition talks prior to Marlin’s arrival.

Hepsworth brought a new broom to Asset Control, hiring senior executives to the management team including Gary Appleby, head of international sales, and Simon Rayfield, head of client services. On joining the company, he signalled a shift away from the company’s traditional focus on large EDM solutions and a move towards provision of more focused use case products including Fundamental Review of the Trading Book (FRTB) and Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II (MiFID II) solutions, and an independent price verification service. Standardisation of products to help clients avoid customisation was also on Hepsworth’s agenda, along with an increase in staff numbers.

Asset Control has this year made two significant additions to its portfolio: data loaders that will deliver full sets of MiFID II reference data fields to financial institutions; and a recently released cloud-based, NoSQL market and reference data platform powered by DataStax Enterprise and integrated with AC Plus to address issues around data volume, speed and access.

It remains to be seen whether this will be enough to lure potential buyers to part with £100 million. We’ll keep you posted.

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