Cybersecurity firm KnowBe4 to go private in $4.6 billion deal with Vista Equity Partners

FILE PHOTO: U.S. One dollar banknotes are seen in front of displayed stock graph in this illustration taken

(Reuters) -KnowBe4 Inc on Wednesday agreed to go private in a sweetened $4.6 billion deal with Vista Equity Partners, the latest cybersecurity firm to be snapped up by private equity in this year's market downturn.

The offer values each share of KnowBe4 at $24.90, compared with the $24 Vista had offered in September and 44% higher than the stock's pre-bid close on Sept. 16.

Shares of the company rose 12.5% to $24.28 in premarket trading after the announcement.

KnowBe4's stock had lost nearly a quarter of its value in 2022 before Vista's proposal, even as the rise of hybrid work boosted demand for its platform that allows businesses to host security awareness training with simulated phishing attacks.

Private equity firms have been scooping up technology companies whose shares have taken a beating this year from worries over rising interest rates and an economic slowdown.

Vista's bid is the latest in a string of large investments by the Austin, Texas-based fund this year, including its $16.5 billion acquisition of cloud services firm Citrix Systems in January.

The KnowBe4 deal, expected to close in the first half of 2023, will be financed through a mix of debt and equity financing. It was unanimously approved by a special committee set up by KnowBe4 to review the proposal.

Morgan Stanley & Co LLC was serving as financial advisor to KnowBe4's special committee and Guggenheim Securities LLC was financial advisor for Vista.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the news earlier on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Savyata Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath)