Exertis MD on acquisitions, European expansion, and the financial might of parent DCC

Tom Wright
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Exertis MD on acquisitions, European expansion, and the financial might of parent DCC

Gerry O'Keeffe opens up on future plans as Exertis sees revenue pass £3bn mark

Exertis is plotting to spread out further into Europe both through its Hammer business and potential acquisitions, according to UK MD Gerry O'Keeffe.

O'Keeffe (pictured) was speaking to CRN after Exertis' parent company DCC published its financial results, with Exertis seeing revenue top £3bn in its last financial year.

He explained that the distributor is looking to leverage the European network of Hammer, which it acquired in 2016.

Hammer has remained a standalone business since the acquisition, and has offices in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and the Nordics.

"Hammer has had a strong year, but also within the enterprise business that sits in Exertis itself, security has been really strong for us, wireless networking has been improving and UC (unified communications) has had a very positive year," O'Keeffe said.

"As we go forward, the closer alignment with the Hammer business is really exciting for us, and how we extend that enterprise capability into some of Hammer's European offices.

"There is more alignment regarding the Exertis business into Hammer, rather than the reverse. Hammer remains very much a standalone entity but we are capitalising on the opportunity to leverage the enterprise business within Exertis through the Hammer network, under the leadership of [managing director] James Ward."

O'Keeffe said this expansion could be catalysed by further acquisitions, but stopped short of saying whether any deals are in the pipeline.

He did say, however, that Exertis has access to funds from parent DCC if the right opportunities become available.

"We are always looking at where we can grow and add new technology and new geographies," he said.

"We are always looking at opportunities and you've seen that we've done two acquisitions in each of the last two years.

"DCC are quite acquisitive in terms of the overall business and those funds are equally available to us for the right opportunities."

O'Keeffe added that this financial backing has become more important in the current financial climate.

His comments come during a period that has seen a number of channel firms - both resellers and distributors - go out of business.

"We're in the lucky position where we're backed by a really strong parent, which in today's world is increasingly important," he claimed.

"It is not always that vendors can know that they're going to work with a distributor and have no doubt whatsoever that the cheque is going to be paid. Likewise, from a customer perspective, I think customers have come to realise the strength that we have from a financial perspective and know that we are a partner they can always rely on."

Raising awareness

The Exertis name was born in 2013 when Micro-P, Gem, and other brands within the group were pulled together and rebranded.

Nearly five years on, O'Keeffe said that the channel is not aware of the true scale and breadth of the Exertis offering.

"I still think we have a way to go in making people aware of the extent of our capabilities, but certainly we have made a hell of a lot of head ground," he said. "The more customers and vendors understand about the overall levels of support we can provide them, the more we can help them grow their business.

"That's one of the things we find; when our customers come and see the extent of what we do, they realise there is so much more they could be working on with us."

Since adopting the Exertis name, the business has gone on to make a number of acquisitions, perhaps most notably when it acquired Hammer in 2016.

The financial year just reported was the first to include a full 12 months of Hammer revenue, which O'Keeffe said has had a slight impact on the balance of revenue between consumer and business sales.

A year ago around 60 per cent of revenue came in from consumer, but this has now balanced out to around 50/50. O'Keeffe however does not put too much emphasis on this figure.

More importantly, he claimed, Exertis has seen growth across its four main business units - consumer, business, enterprise and services.

"It's probably balanced back somewhat by virtue of the full year of the Hammer acquisition, but I don't really look at our business in that way," he explained.

"I look at how we can grow each of the areas at all times and, as I say, we've seen growth in all areas. It's a minor change but the overall change is growth."

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