Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Equifax to buy top payroll-service firm

That was the headline that greeted me when I opened up my Atlanta Journal Constitution Business section last Thursday. Right there below the fold. Plain as day. My heart began to race a bit. Who could it be? Equifax is big, certainly. With a $5 billion market capitalization they could probably make a run at quite a few companies; but a “top firm?”


ADP is THE top firm, but with a $28 billion market cap that would be impossible, right? I mean, I’ve heard of leveraged buyouts, but this is ridiculous. Besides, the 80’s are over. Milliken went to jail, and Gordon Gecko is a fictional character.


No, it wasn’t ADP (“P’shah – as if” as my daughter would say). Well Ceridian might be the one. They are smaller than Equifax at a 4.7 billion market cap. It’s be like a merger of equals. Just like Price Waterhouse and C&L were back when they merged. Of course there was that C & L partner who told me “You’ve been acquired!” – but that’s a different story and he might be reading. Ceridian had also just announced, two days earlier the “Exploration Of Alternatives To Enhance Shareholder Value.” Could they move that fast? I doubt it. But no, it wasn’t Ceridian.
Isn’t it amazing how much the mind can go through between reading the headline and the lead in a story? And to think I had instant recall of all these market cap figures. Jason Corsello, eat your heart out!

So it wasn’t ADP or Ceridian. Who’s left? Paychex? No offense, but do people refer to Paychex as a “top firm?” I know, I know..I’m showing my ignorance of the small business market. Paychex is a major player. With market capitalization of close to 16 billion, Paychex is over 3 times the size of Ceridian. But it wasn’t Paychex either.

So who is this “top payroll-service firm” being acquired by Equifax? TALX. That’s right: TALX. Now I knew TALX provides some payroll services in the areas of employment and income verification, pay reporting, hiring and employment tax management. But top payroll services firm? I wish headline writers would read the stories fist.

But seriously, what does this mean? This Equifax press release states the acquisition is aligned with Equifax’s “long-term growth strategy of expanding into new markets and acquiring proprietary data sources.” So Equifax wants the data that TALX has access to. Data like employment history, income information, tax records and the like. Maybe this is a portend of consolidation activity to come in the “payroll services industry”. Maybe Equifax just likes the business model. Maybe Big Brother is alive and well.

I for one am going to keep an eye out to see where this goes.

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