SUSE goes private again

SUSE, the German Linux vendor and acquirer of enterprise tools like Rancher and NeuVector, has had its fair share of owners since it was founded in 1992. There was Novell, which acquired it in 2003. Then Novell itself was acquired by The Attachmate Group in 2011. Then Attachmate and Micro Focus merged in 2014, only to sell off SUSE to private equity firm EQT Partners in 2018, which then took it public with an IPO on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in the heady days of summer 2021. And now, EQT Partners is taking SUSE private once again.

EQT remained SUSE’s largest shareholder throughout its time in the public markets, owning 79% of all shares. The firm is offering a 67% premium to SUSE shareholders over what the stock last traded at yesterday, but it will also allow existing shareholders to remain invested in the company in a private setting, too. EQT expects SUSE to delist in the last quarter of the year.

We haven’t heard a lot from SUSE about this move, but the overall message seems to be that it’s business as usual for the company. “I believe in the strategic opportunity of taking the company private – it gives us the right setting to grow the business and deliver on our strategy with the new leadership team in place,” said Dirk-Peter van Leeuwen, CEO of SUSE, in a canned statement. “EQT Private Equity’s and SUSE’s partnership in a private setting has been fruitful before and we are excited about the long-term potential of the company and our continued collaboration.”

SUSE has been in the news quite a bit this year. Not only did it hire away its new CEO Dirk-Peter van Leeuwen from Red Hat earlier this year and very recently named new chief financial and strategy officers, but the company also smartly jumped into a vacuum left by Red Hat’s decision to make it harder for third-party Linux distribution vendors to get access to the source code of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). In response to Red Hat’s decision, SUSE decided to fork RHEL and then partnered with a number of the affected vendors to launch the Open Enterprise Linux Association (OpenELA).

SUSE says going private will allow it to “focus fully on its operational priorities and execution of its long-term strategy” — a focus that will surely include capitalizing on what the company clearly perceives is an opening to take away market share from Red Hat.