Can Randstad Make Monster Acquisition Pay?

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Netherlands-based Randstad said Tuesday morning that it has agreed to acquire online job board Monster Worldwide Inc. (NYSE: MWW) for $429 million ($3.40 per share) in cash. The price reflects a 23% premium to Monster’s closing price on Monday.

Randstad will commence a tender offer for Monster shares, and Monster’s board has agreed to recommend that the company’s shareholders accept the offer. The tender offer has no financing condition and, subject to regulatory approvals, is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of this year. Once the transaction is completed, Monster will be delisted from the New York Stock Exchange.

Randstad is a global human resources company that claims to be the world’s second largest, trailing only Switzerland’s Adecco Group. Randstad’s 2015 revenues totaled €19.2 billion, and it employs nearly 30,000 people in 39 countries. Less than €5 billion of that revenue was earned in the United States.

Monster has been struggling to grow for some time now. Over the past five years, the stock price traded in a range of $5 to $10 a share, until early this year when it tumbled below $3 a share and did not rebound above that level until Randstad’s offer was announced.

Annual revenues had dropped from about $764 million in 2013 to $667 million last year, although operating income turned positive in 2015 after a massive loss in 2014.

Randstad clearly expects to gain a better foothold on the U.S. market, and the Dutch company has the cash that Monster never had to make competitors’ lives more difficult. Given the expected softness in the European economy that will trail behind Brexit, now was probably a good time for Randstad to make this move.

The success of this move may be determined by how long the U.S. job market stays strong. The more jobs the U.S. economy creates, the better for Monster and Randstad. But with the unemployment rate already under 5% and the Federal Reserve weirdly nailed to their 2% inflation target, the time available for Randstad to make some noise in the U.S. market may be getting shorter.

Monster shares traded up more than 25% Tuesday morning, at $3.48 in a 52-week range of $2.13 to $8.23. The average 12-month price target on the stock was $4.10, well above the price Randstad paid.

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