LanguageLine Sold for USD 1.5bn to Call Center Giant Teleperformance

After owning LanguageLine for a full 12 years, private equity firm Abry Partners finally managed to exit. On August 22, 2016, French call center behemoth Teleperformance announced the acquisition of Monterey, California-based LanguageLine Solutions for an impressive USD 1.522bn. Abry Partners had bought LanguageLine in 2004 for USD 720m.

The price is significantly above the USD 1bn cited by Bloomberg earlier in 2016. While LanguageLine’s revenues in 2015 were public at USD 388m, its exceptionally high profitability at an adjusted EBITDA of USD 147m in 2015 may come as a bit of a surprise to an industry used to eking out profit margins around the 10% mark. At 10x EBITDA, the valuation is still rich compared to other recent transactions in the language industry.

The price likely also reflects general market growth. LanguageLines’ competitor CyraCom recently made it to the Inc. 5000 list, posting a three-year revenue growth of 125%.

A Teleperformance location 10 minutes from Slator’s Manila office (Image taken by Slator)

Paris-based Teleperformance’s core business is operating call centers. Founded in 1978, the company employs 190,000 employees in 65 countries and, in 2015, generated revenues of EUR 3.4bn. Profits on EBITDA-level in 2015 were EUR 351m. The company’s largest operations in terms of headcount is located in the Philippines, where it employs over 38,000 staff, followed by the US (26,200), Mexico (15,800), and Brazil (15,000).

Teleperformance trades on the Euronext Paris market. The company’s shares have been on a tear over the past four years and are up nearly 400% since July 2012, giving the firm a market capitalization of over EUR 5bn.

The acquisition is Teleperformance’s first foray into the language services industry. Its scale and expertise in large outsourcing contracts could make the company a significant new force in the industry should it choose to expand beyond the interpretation market.

For now, though, the deal seems to be about improving Teleperformance’s bottom line and acquiring a complementary service with overlapping client portfolio.

Teleperformance’s shares up strongly over past 4-5 years

A press release quotes Teleperformance CEO Paulo César Vasques as saying that LanguageLine works with “a large array of clients in verticals that we already service in customer service and technical support.” The same press release also says the acquisition will “positively impact Teleperformance’s profitability profile.”

The markets agree and Teleperformance shares were up 6% at press time despite the deal’s rich price tag. Teleperformance says the transaction is expected to close before year-end and is subject to certain regulatory approvals.