Why is no one writing about Liquent being acquired by Marlin Equity Partners? Sure, there’s a press release (the same press release) all over the web, but no one seems to be speculating as to why Thomson-Reuters sold Liquent (to make money? to cease losing money on its investment? it longer fit its product portfolio? they got an offer they couldn't refuse?....) or exactly why Marlin purchased it.
For those who aren't familiar with the document/information management/regulatory Life Sciences space, Liquent (its products include(d) Insight Manager, Publisher, Viewer, CoreDossier, and EZsubs) provides the software that most of the major pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms use to prepare and publish their drug submissions to the FDA and its international counterparts. Founded as ESPS (Electronic Submissions Publishing Systems) in 1993, with funding from Adobe Ventures, it initially revolutionized the assembling and publishing of documents required for new drug applications (NDAs). Though I’m not able to find precise data on Liquent’s market share, I think it’s safe to say that more than half of the large pharmas use its products for FDA submissions (industry analysts have said that as many as 33/50 of the top Life Sciences firms used CoreDossier at one time). I believe that Liquent has since lost market share to companies like Image Solutions , Extedo, and most recently Datafarm .
For those of us who are unfamiliar with Marlin Equity Partners, the company says that it:
“invests in businesses that are in the process of undergoing varying degrees of operational, financial or market-driven change where our capital base, industry relationships and extensive network of operational resources will significantly strengthen a company's outlook and enhance value."
So, what are Marlin’s intentions toward Liquent? You tell me. This little blurb on Marlin's website caught my eye:
“in addition to financial capital, the Marlin team provides a network of strategic resources and relationships that helps management teams weather challenging transitions and recognize long-term value opportunity within their businesses. In cases where growth through acquisition is appropriate, Marlin brings to bear extensive resources to manage the transaction and integration processes.”
What, pray tell, might that imply? That Marlin will either partner with, or purchase, a Liquent-competitor or company with a complementary product and then repackage the combination? Or, is Liquent is about to change its business model? (SaaS doesn’t seem like too big a stretch since outsourcing and consulting are already major components of its offering.)
I’d be curious to learn what Life Sciences and Biotechs are thinking about Liquent’s latest change. While some may say it’s no big deal because Liquent has been owned by the likes of Information Holdings, Thomson, and Thomson-Reuters in the past, I think this is different. Liquent needs to grow big-time, right now to maintain/regain its market share and it finally (at least potentially) has the backing to do so.
The burning question at this juncture, in my not so humble opinion, is whether Liquent has the vision to leapfrog its competitors? Can its industry veteran leaders think as creatively as, say, the eager entrepreneurs at GlobalSubmit, who came in from the outside and built a cozy, Microsoft-friendly relationship with both the FDA and its clients?
You tell me!