Honeywell's Matrikon Deal Is about Everything But OPC

Honeywell’s Matrikon Deal Is about Everything But OPC
Honeywell has agreed to pay some $142 million USD or approximately $145 million CAD for Edmonton, Canada-based Matrikon, best known to the wider automation community as, by its own assessment, the world’s largest supplier of OPC connectivity products, but a provider of a much wider range of software products and consultancy to the power & utilities, oil & gas, mining and petrochem industries. On completion of the deal, which is subject to the approval of Matrikon shareholders, it will be merged into Honeywell Process Solutions (HPS) whose president, Norm Gilsdorf, described it as "a great addition to our business," which by "Combining Matrikon’s technology and expertise with Honeywell’s industrial platform expands our offering to help customers continue to improve plant performance."

According to the Honeywell release announcing the deal, Matrikon’s sales were approximately $80 million USD for the 12 months to February 2010, pricing the deal at about 1.8 times annual revenue. In its last full financial year, however, it had sales of $73 million CAD to August 31, 2009, and net income of $2.3 million CAD, suggesting that the price is of the order of a hefty 60 times annual earnings.

Emulating IOM?
The acquisition could be seen as moving HPS in a similar direction to that taken by Invensys Operations Management (IOM) since its creation by the bringing together of Invensys Process Systems, Wonderware and Eurotherm under Sudipta Bhattacharya and its subsequent increasing emphasis on higher level software solutions and consultancy.

Honeywell’s press release describing the deal particularly highlights Matrikon’s complementary applications to monitor oil and gas well performance and mining equipment, supply chain solutions for mining and cybersecurity and alarm management solutions that align with its own solutions for process safety and security.
Surprisingly, however, it makes absolutely no mention of the OPC business, which might suggest a degree of embarrassment since Honeywell is the only major automation vendor not fully to implement the OPC Classic specification. HoneywellOPC, its own proprietary implementation, is widely seen as being incompatible with the full OPC Classic specification, leading one Matrikon insider to comment that "Honeywell bought Matrikon because we were replacing so much of their OPC s**t." For that reason alone the acquisition should be good news for Honeywell users who, as Control’s Walt Boyes put it in his Sound Off !blog, will now be able "to get both Honeywell service and support and the real deal from Matrikon ... and for any third party that has ever tried to connect to a Honeywell OPC server."

That is of course if Honeywell intends to hang on to the OPC business. It’s hard to imagine any of its competitors being comfortable buying their OPC connectivity from a major rival which may be why nobody else has come forward with a counter bid, despite the fact that, as another Matrikon insider commented of his hosts at last week’s Houston event, "ABB did not realize how much they were buying from us, across divisions; if they had it would have been a no brainer acquisition for them." Certainly, if Honeywell does retain ownership, one doesn’t need to look further than Matrikon’s Portland, Maine-based competitor Kepware to find the principal beneficiary.

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