Canada’s Corel is acquiring virtualization specialist Parallels in an all-cash deal

Some consolidation is afoot in the world of business software. TechCrunch has learned from multiple sources that Parallels, the virtualization software specialist with millions of users, is getting acquired by Corel, the Canadian company behind design apps like CorelDraw and productivity apps like WordPerfect that once competed heavily with Microsoft.

Employees at Parallels were briefed on the acquisition Tuesday, one source said. Terms have not been disclosed, but we understand it is an all-cash deal.

The acquisition is expected to close in December, and the companies will make the news public then. From what we understand, Corel will keep Parallels as an independent product.

We have written both to Corel and Parallels. Corel has not responded and Parallels said it “does not have any news to announce and does not comment on rumors or speculation”. Another source close to the company said he wouldn’t be able to comment until later (presumably after the deal is finalised).

Corel has changed ownership and gone in and out of being listed publicly a number of times since being founded in the 1980s in Ottawa. It’s now owned by Vector Capital, which is essentially the one buying Parallels.

Parallels was originally founded in 1999 with roots in Russia and is currently headquartered in Bellevue, Washington.

It has never made much of a fanfare around its financing or valuation. According to PitchBook its last funding round was in 2015, an undisclosed amount from Endeavour Vision, KG Investments, Maxfield Capital, Savano Capital Partners and others. It raised $300 million from Ingram Micro the year before that.

It’s not fully clear what the rationale was for the sale, except it seems many investors were longstanding and looking to exit, while Corel has slowly been consolidating a number of smaller software businesses. Most recently before this, it acquired Gravit Designer from Germany earlier this year.

Parallels provides a number of products that help people work seamlessly across multiple platforms, essentially letting people (and IT managers) run a unified workflow regardless of the device or operating system, ranging from Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Chromebook, Linux, Raspberry Pi and cloud — a particularly compelling offering in the current, fragmented IT market.

Corel once had designs to take on Microsoft in the world of software. When it purchased WordPerfect from Novel in 1996, Corel founder Michael Cowpland (no longer with the company) saw the software package as an integral part of that rivalry, describing it as the Pepsi to Microsoft’s Coke — that is, Word.

That didn’t really pan out, with Microsoft at the time having a vice grip on platform and software (this was before the rise of Google, the rebirth of Apple, the rise of apps, and other big shifts in the industry). At one point, Microsoft signed a partnership with Corel that saw it investing in the company: a sell out, as one disappointed Canadian journalist described it at the time.

The two have also sparred over patents.

These days, Corel is “highly profitable”, says Vector, selling software that includes CorelDraw, WordPerfect, WinZip, PaintShop Pro, and WinDVD.

You could potentially imagine Parallels existing alongside that portfolio to improve usability — either by integrating Parallels’ functionality into Corel’s other software, or by selling the products in bundles.

There have been a number of enterprise software acquisitions with a view to legacy businesses raising their game in open source, cloud and other newer developments. The most notable of these has been IBM announcing its intent to acquire Red Hat for $34 billion in October.