Bechtle has revealed its intention to acquire €420m-turnover French reseller Inmac Wstore, which if successful would be the biggest acquisition in the firm's history.
A takeover agreement between Bechtle and Inmac Wstore was signed today, Bechtle confirmed. The deal is still subject to customary French regulatory approvals and a consultation with Inmac Wstore's workers council.
Owned by US channel giant Systemax since 2009, the French firm trades under the names Inmac Wstore and Misco and employs more than 400 staff across three locations in Roissy-en-France, Plessis and Angoulême. It sells IT products - including PCs, software, storage, networking, components and peripherals - to customers in France.
Bechtle claims that Inmac Wstore would continue to operate with its existing structure and management team if the acquisition is successful.
"As a European company, we are gaining further market share with Inmac Wstore and taking a leading position in another important market," says Thomas Olemotz, CEO of Bechtle.
"The acquisition would be a milestone on the road to realising our Vision 2020, which not only provides for €5bn in revenue and 10,000 employees, but positions Bechtle as number one in European IT e-commerce."
The mammoth M&A move is unusual for Bechtle, both in terms of its sheer scale and geographic location. Previous acquisitions have been notably smaller - in the €10m to €30m range - and have usually focused on growing its central European business in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
It has acquired two Swiss Microsoft partners so far this year - Acommit for €11.97m in January and 25-employee-strong firm Evolusys later in May. Bechtle's largest acquisition in the last few years came in 2016 when it acquired €30m-turnover Swiss VAR Steffen Informatik.
Bechtle currently trades into the French market through just three small entities: its software specialist arm Comsoft Direct, Bechtle Direct and IT provider ARP France.
The acquisition will substantially bolster Bechtle's French business, which currently stands at less than a tenth of overall revenues of €3.75bn.
Although the firm does not break out individual revenues for France, 2017 financials reveal that Bechtle's non-German subsidiaries - excluding Switzerland - produced revenues of €737.07m last year, split between 13 subsidiaries globally.
Robin Ody, analyst at market watcher Canalys, told Channelnomics Europe that Bechtle had likely limited M&A choices if it wanted to build up its public sector business in the French market.
"Buying in France, and buying a company like Inmac Wstore, is very much more about building up your public sector and enterprise business. In France, the public sector business is very concentrated towards two or three large players that have to go through that online bidding process for public sector contracts," he said.
"While it is a big acquisition, it seems to be more in line with Bechtle's non-German business in the first place. They could have bought other online players, but in France, the only online players you can and should buy are the ones that are already part of that public sector bidding business because there really are only a few that are involved in that. So if you're going to buy anyone, you've got to buy big."
The deal also marks a departure from Europe for US reseller Systemax. The $1.27bn-revenue firm sold off the vast majority of its loss-making European Technology Products Group in March 2017 to "distressed investment and restructuring" firm Hilco Capital and channel executive Alan Cantwell. But Systemax has until now held on to its profitable French business.
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