Olivetti Computers Worldwide's partners are being hit hard by product shortages in the wake of unstable management that forced an MBO last week.
As exclusively revealed by PC Dealer (3 March), OCW filed for court protection against creditors in its home country. The financial turmoil and resultant strikes affecting the parent company in Italy have translated into lost UK sales. The UK management said it hoped the MBO voted through by shareholders and main creditor Olivetti Group on 4 March would reverse the situation.
Despite approval for the MBO proposed by Olivetti Group, which will wrest control of OCW from holding company Piedmont International, distributors and resellers are caught up in shortages stemming back as far as September.
Channel partners claimed the dearth of products was threatening their businesses. For some, both products and maintenance were found wanting, while one reseller is understood to have lost a long-term customer as a result.
Bernie Wheaton, business development director at Olivetti distributor Logitek, said: 'There have been some hiccups in the channel, but as Olivetti's largest UK distributor, we were able to anticipate the hiccups. We made provision for supply disconnect by extra investment in particular ranges.'
He added resellers that were not normally Logitek customers were forced to come looking for product. 'The industrial relations problems and decisions that lead up to the MBO did cause some hiccups in the channel,' he admitted.
Ian Davidson, UK marketing manager at OCW, admitted it could have lost SME business from those who were not prepared to wait for the MBO to address the shortages.
See news analysis, page 10
PIEDMONT LOSES CONTROL OF OCW
The approval of OCW's management buyout has meant that Piedmont International, the company set up to control the PC vendor when it was purchased two years ago, now loses its position.
On the insistence of Olivetti Group, key creditor and licensor of the Olivetti brand name, Piedmont must reduce its dominating stake from 80 per cent to a less significant 35 per cent. Chaplet, the Taiwanese mobile manufacturer - the other institutional investor and OEM partner - will raise its stake to 10 per cent.
Industry insiders are hoping the shift in power will make for more transparent administration of the company, in contrast to Piedmont's apparent unaccountablity.
Contrary to rumours, Olidata, the second largest PC vendor in Italy, will not be part of the MBO. Five banks will stump up a L130 billion package for this purpose.
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