Does Slack’s move to go public make it an acquisition target?

The popular team chat software firm is aiming for a public listing, which could make this an attractive time for a quick buyout by another big tech vendor.

Slack logo/wordmark [2019]

Slack announced last week that it is preparing for a public listing, capitalizing on huge growth in the six years since its launch. But could the popular workplace collaboration software company get acquired even before it hits the stock market?

“The fact that Slack is heading for a stock market listing indicates that its investors are looking for an exit/ROI opportunity, so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that they’d consider an acquisition instead,” said Angela Ashenden, principal analyst at CCS Insight.

“It would be very appealing as an acquisition, particularly for a company that wants to compete more directly/effectively with Microsoft in the digital workplace,” she said.

“Slack is a good acquisition target for companies who want to win the collaboration market,” said Wayne Kurtzman, research director at IDC. “Winning that market is arguably winning the future digital workplace.”

It wouldn't be the first time like this occurred. There are a handful of examples in recent years of tech firm buy-outs taking place prior to a public listing (which is sometimes referred to as a “dual-track” process). Qualtrics was acquired last year by SAP for $8 billion a few days before its IPO at a valuation of approximately $5 billion, while Cisco acquired AppDynamics for $3.7 billion in 2017 as the latter was prepping for a public listing. And a similar situation occurred last year with PayPal's $2.2 billion acquisition of iZettle.

There is little to suggest that Slack has intentionally undertaken a dual-track process, where it actively courts would-be suitors while heading for a public listing. But it is no stranger to such speculation; the company’s success has led at times to tech chatter that Amazon, Google, Microsoft or perhaps even Apple would make suitable buyers.

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