Computer Sciences, the giant IT consulting company founded in 1959, announced yesterday that it will be splitting into two different companies. Under the new structure, CSC Commercial will serve Fortune 1000 companies while CSC US Public Sector will focus on servicing government entities. Following HP, Symantec and eBay, CSC is the latest of a series of tech companies that have announced splits in the last year. Other legendary companies like EMC have been under constant pressure to spin off VMWare into a separate entity. This phenomenon is becoming a strong reality of large tech companies to the point that legendary venture capitalist Marc Andreessen presented the provocative thesis that most tech companies older than 20 years will be forced to split.
Despite the media fascination with the split of large tech companies, it’s pretty obvious that those decisions are extremely complicated. Companies like eBay, Symantec, HP, CSC or EMC are legendary institutions in the history of the tech industry and many of them have enjoyed stellar performances in the public markets. In that sense, what can motivate or force such institutions to split into different companies? While the explanations are far from obvious, there are a few factors that might indicate the possibility of a split.
One Business Unit Starts Growing Faster than the Core Business
One of the main scenarios for a company split is when a business unit of the company starts growing exponentially higher than the others. Arguably, this is the case of eBay in which Paypal’s revenues recently became larger than eBay’s core business. In those situations, many shareholders see a split as a potential solution to allow the fast growing segment to continue evolving faster while the core business units can grow without the distraction of a faster growing little brother.
Different Business Units Evolve Under Drastically Different Business Models
Another cause of a company split could be seen when two groups of business units within a company evolve under completely different business models. In this scenario, we are not necessarily referring to a group of business units growing faster than the rest of company but rather under different business models. HP could be used as an example of this scenario as the enterprise software business units have grown following a business model completely different from the core printing business. When faced with this scenario, companies typically faced challenges enforcing common strategies and goals which makes the split an appealing scenario.
Wall Street Doesn’t Know How to Value the Company
In many cases, the stock price of large tech companies have suffered because Wall Street have difficulties valuing the company with many diverse business models. In those scenarios, sometimes shareholders believe they will benefit from a split that could simplify the valuation of the stock. An example of this scenario (not from the tech world) can be found on GE recently announcing the sale of the assets of the GE Capital unit.
Agility in New and Competitive Markets Becomes Challenging
Every sector and geography in the world can be potentially considered a technology market. Some sectors also experience very fast grow and become extremely competitive with new generation of startups entering the space. In those situations, business units of a large company can experience continuous challenges to expand into new areas or geographies or simply remain competitive in fast growing spaces. As a result, many shareholders see a split as an option to allow the company to regain its agility without the pressures and distractions of the other business units.