Bentley Systems takes first steps to IPO … again

Timing is everything: Bentley Systems signals plans for an IPO at a time of market optimism and company success. 

bentley-logoBentley Systems has confidentially submitted a draft registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to conduct an initial public offering of its Class B common stock. In other words the company is just starting the process of going for an IPO. As of this writing there is no word on the size of the offering, or the timing. The inestimable Monica Schnitger caught the July 7 press release and has some preliminary thoughts. So do we.

While the announcement comes as a surprise this morning, it’s not at all unexpected. Bentley filed for an IPO in 2002 and withdrew it. It was not a great time for an IPO for any company and the response to Bentley’s offering was sluggish. The initial offering was for $172.5 million, a pittance by today’s standards.

Now is a better time than ever for Bentley to file. The company is an underappreciated competitor in the CAD world. The company self-publishes their financial reports and demonstrates consistent if not always huge growth. The company did not see the same crash in the 2009 recession as its competitors did – it held steady as others saw their revenue dive. More important, as the CAD industry has redefined itself, Bentley has likewise transformed itself from a CAD software competitor into a BIM software and services provider. On that front, the company has led much of the industry including its arch-rival Autodesk.

It has been involved in large infrastructure projects worldwide, including the United Kingdom’s enormous Crossrail rail link. Bentley Systems has been an active partner in the project and its work has helped define BIM workflows for large scale projects. Bentley’s CEO Greg Bentley takes some credit for helping define the UK’s BIM mandate.

In its latest annual report, Bentley Systems reported 7% growth in 2014 for $625 million.

Bentley is a family owned operation founded in 1984. The company’s leadership has suggested for some time that they’ve been mulling the next step for the company, and alliances forged with Siemens PLM and Trimble spur seasonal chatter about acquisition, but an IPO has always made sense for this company—now more than ever.

See also: Bentley reports $625 million revenue for 2014