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Consolidation accelerates in government contracting. Who’s next in M&A?

Joey Cresta, an analyst with Technology Business Research Inc. in Hampton, New Hampshire, who closely tracks the government services market, wonders if SAIC’s (NYSE: SAIC) deal for Engility — a marriage of two legacy companies providing systems engineering and technical assistance (SETA) services to the government — might signal the beginning of the end of contractors chasing scale.

That advantage, Cresta writes in a new research note, erodes in an era where in-demand, agile tech skills, industry partnerships and expanding intellectual property portfolios will provide more of a competitive advantage than size.

“If SAIC focuses purely on the scale advantage of the Engility deal rather than the IP monetization factor, it could in short order find itself in a race to the bottom,” he adds, “with diminished pricing due to labor automation hamstringing financial flexibility and capacity for continued reinvestment to keep up with the ever-accelerating pace of technological change.”

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Legacy’s last gasp: SAIC, Engility and the importance of skills over scale

SAIC’s planned purchase of Engility combines federal contractors with business models similarly disrupted by the march of technology

Themes of consolidation continued to pervade the U.S. federal government IT and professional services market on Monday, Sept. 10, with SAIC (NYSE: SAIC) announcing it will acquire peer Engility (NYSE: EGL). The proposed deal would combine two legacy providers of systems engineering and technical assistance (SETA) and ITO services to U.S. defense, intelligence, civilian and space agencies. The combination makes strategic sense for both parties as the commoditization of labor-based services compresses margins, compelling companies to look for scale advantages to optimize cost structures and maintain competitiveness to capitalize on the federal market’s current upswing.

The proposed deal would add to the lengthy list of market-shaping acquisitions and divestitures over the past five years. SAIC can be viewed as an instigator of the trend, as the company split from its former parent company, now Leidos (NYSE: LDOS), in 2013. Engility has also played a role in the industry’s consolidation through its acquisition of TASC in 2015. In the few years since, Leidos purchased Lockheed Martin’s (NYSE: LMT) IT services business, CSRA briefly gained independence before combining with General Dynamics IT (GDIT) earlier this year, and another new company, Perspecta (NYSE: PRSP), emerged from the combination of DXC Technology (NYSE: DXC) U.S. Public Sector assets with Vencore and KeyPoint Government Solutions.

While scale motivated all of these moves to varying degrees, SAIC’s planned purchase of Engility may represent the beginning of the end of this trend. As rapid technological change disrupts legacy business models, TBR believes the importance of scale will diminish. The deal will help SAIC in the near term, but what the company does next will determine its long-term survivability in the Business of One era.

Engility, CACI and SAIC do the federal services consolidation tango

On Wednesday, July 11, Reuters released an exclusive report citing unnamed sources that U.S. federal services contractor Engility (NYSE: EGL) is exploring a sale. The report noted interest in Engility from federal services peers CACI (NYSE: CACI) and SAIC (NYSE: SAIC), which both dwarf Engility in size at $4.45 billion and $4.55 billion, respectively, in TBR-estimated 2018 revenues, compared with Engility’s $1.87 billion. The report was no surprise to TBR, as we have been monitoring the consolidation trend within the federal services sector over the past several years, including past deals such as CACI’s acquisition of L-3 National Security Solutions, Leidos’ purchase of Lockheed Martin Information Systems & Global Solutions and General Dynamics’ recently completed acquisition of CSRA.