5 Questions for NorthgateArinso CEO Mike Ettling

Just one hour ago, KKR portfolio company NorthgateArinso, a UK-based provider of HR software and services company, signed a deal to buy the HR unit of Convergys for $100 million in cash. The paperwork originally was supposed to be finished up before market close, but sometimes these things take a bit longer than expected.

I spent a few minutes on the phone with NorthgateArinso CEO Mike Ettling, shortly after the final T was crossed. What follows is an edited version of our conversation:

1. How did this deal process begin?

Ettling: Convergys started the process last fall, and we’ve been engaged since last October. We stayed in it, and ultimately were the last horse in the race.” [Ed. note: Jefferies ran the auction]

2. What does the Convergys unit bring NorthgateArinso that it didn’t already have?

Strategically we have a goal to become world’s leading HR services company. Today 35% of the global market is in the U.S., but up to this point only a very small percentage of our global revenues came from the U.S. In addition, one of our primary sweet spots in terms of our service offerings is providing services to global multinational corporations, and the U.S. simply has more of them than anyone else.

So we just had to have a much bigger presence in the U.S. markets, which is why we stayed focused on this transaction and why we were there in the end. It just makes an enormous amount of sense for us.

3. Is this the beginning of a series of U.S. acquisition, or will you use the Convergys platform to build organically?

This asset really allows us to build scale in the U.S. market. I’d expect that it will be able to help us build.

4. What was KKR’s role in this deal, and did it include additional financial support?

KKR is a very supportive shareholder in our business. It played a key role in helping us through the process, particularly in terms of advice… I don’t want to comment yet on the financing structure.

5. What should employees of the Convergys unit expect. Layoffs? New hires?

They should expect business as usual. Our current U.S. business is smaller than the one we are acquiring, so in many ways we’re not only acquiring the business and contracts, but we’re acquiring talent. We want to use that talent effectively not only in the U.S. context, but also globally.