Highly competitive, fragmented and complicated are three adjectives that are often used in association with the European channel. Vendors looking to crack the European market will quickly find out that they will inevitably fail without the help of the tens of thousands of channel partners that are in operation across the continent.
If there is one thing that outsiders need to understand about Europe, it's this: people buy local. Customers won't do business with you unless they trust you, so vendors are wholly dependent on those channel partners that know the market, speak the language and have spent years building up the customer relationships.
Business was exceptionally healthy for Europe's largest channel partners in 2018. Amid fears that the PC market is dying, and product sales will quickly shrivel into nothing, even resellers turning over billions of euros each year were logging double-digit revenue growth.
But despite the market's new-found positivity, channel partner CEOs have warned that hard times could be coming. Whether it's Brexit, tightening tensions between the US and China, or signs that Europe's major economies could be taking a turn for the worse - the industry is undoubtedly uneasy about what the future might hold.
This article is part of CPI's Global Elite 2019 Report, sponsored by Agilitas, a breakdown of the 100 largest resellers in the US and Europe.
You can access the full report, chock full of analysis and executive interviews, here
See below our ranking of the 50 largest channel partners in Europe by revenue:
Revenues: €257m (+15%)
Headquarters: Veldhoven, the Netherlands
Revenues grew by 15 per cent to €257m for Simac in its last financial year. The family-run business was started by one Mac van Schagen in October 1971 and now his son, Eric van Schagen, is in charge of Simac's 1,150-strong workforce.
It has 18 offices in Europe, mainly across the Benelux region, and has been publicly listed since 1994.
Simac has made a tentative expansion play into France through buying a 70 per cent stake in Paris-based network monitoring firm Wavetel. But Schagen played down the expansion, claiming that Simac has no ambitions of large-scale international expansion. Schagen said he is similarly looking for a small acquisition in Germany, so the company can sell a similar service to what's currently on offer in France.
After posting impressive growth in 2018, Schagen told us he's doubtful Simac will repeat the trick this year. He claimed that a softening economy and a slowdown in local semiconductor suppliers and in its key automotive market will hamper growth in 2019.
Revenues: €258m (+41.8%) (2016-2018)
Headquarters: Lombardy, Italy
Having been in business since the early 70s, Elmec sealed a partnership with IBM in the early 1980s and began selling the vendor's early PC models.
Now, the Lombardy-based firm offers managed services in networking, infrastructure, printing and end-user computing. The firm even opened a new Tier IV datacentre in 2015 in Brunello. Elmec operates across seven branches in Italy in addition to a subsidiary in Morbio, Switzerland. The firm turned over €258m in 2018 and employs 680 staff.
Headquarters: Krakow, Poland
This Polish player has offices in 28 countries worldwide, employing 5,500 staff. Based in Krakow, Comarch has been in business for more than 25 years and bills itself as an ERP business management specialist. Comarch boasts an R&D department through which it has developed its own ERP solutions such as Comarch ERP Altum and Comarch ERP Egeria.
The firm has offices in 15 European countries and 84 locations worldwide, and turned over around €260m in 2016.
Revenues: €260.5m (+60%)
Headquarters: Stockholm, Sweden
Swedish VAR Advania grew its revenues by a whopping 60 per cent to SEK 2.8bn (€260m) in its fiscal 2017.
Last September, it received backing from northern European equity fund VIA for a 30 per cent stake in the company which it soon ploughed into the Finnish market through its acquisition of local service provider Vintor.
Other accolades include being named the 13th best place to work in Norway by Great Place to Work, while its subsidiary in Iceland was named Microsoft's partner of the year this January.
Advania now employs 1,200 staff across 25 locations in five countries, 300 of whom work in managed services.
The Nordic MSP has also successfully made a shift towards as-a-service and subscription selling. Around 23 per cent of Advania's revenues are billed on an hourly basis, while 28 per cent are contract based, according to its 2017 report.
Revenues: €288.6m (+6%)
Headquarters: Dortmund, Germany
This cloud MSP and value-added reseller has been in business since 1980, and hit €288.6m in sales in 2018. Materna has a workforce of around 2,000 in Germany along with 170 staff located across 10 additional countries worldwide.
An AWS cloud consulting partner, a Gold-level Microsoft and ServiceNow partner and Platinum-level Sophos partner, Materna's business is divided into five lines: IT factory, digital enterprise, public sector, mobility and its SAP subsidiary CBS.
45) VAR Group
Revenues: €290m (+21%)
Headquarters: Florence, Italy
VAR Group boasts a headcount of 1,600 staff across 23 locations in its home country. Based in Florence, this reseller claimed to have reached €290m in sales for its financial year ending 30 April 2018, a 21 per cent improvement on the previous year.
Around 15 per cent of VAR Group's revenue stems from managed services, with 48 per cent coming from "Business Technology Solutions". VAR Group claims to have 796 vendor certifications under its belt, including Titanium status with Dell EMC, Gold status with Cisco and Oracle and Platinum with HP, HPE and Lenovo.
VAR Group is wholly owned by SeSa, an Italian technology company that is also behind €1.1bn-turnover distributor Computer Gross.
Revenues: €308m (+2%)
Headquarters: Stockholm, Sweden
Revenues grew by a miniscule two per cent for Proact in 2018 to SEK 3.32bn (€308.30m), but profits (EBITA) ballooned by seven per cent year on year to SEK 201m.
After attaining its long-held dream last year of reaching five per cent pre-tax profit margins, this storage integrator is now chasing margins of eight per cent, and revenue growth of at least 10 per cent for full-year 2019.
The top NetApp partner welcomed former Telia boss Jonas Hasselberg as its CEO in September last year, taking over from Jason Clark who stepped down in early 2018.
Hasselberg claims that M&A is on the agenda as the firm chases its 10 per cent revenue growth target. Growing its cloud services portfolio, and growing its presence in the UK will be the focus of Proact's M&A plans.
The firm is eager to position itself as a hybrid cloud infrastructure specialist, and has partnered with AWS and Microsoft in public cloud. It is now an Advanced-level AWS partner after joining its Channel Reseller Programme last year.
Services now make up around a quarter of Proact's total sales as the firm continues to invest in cloud offerings. The firm employs around 800 staff in 15 countries across Europe and North America.
43) All for One Steeb
Revenues: €332.5m (+11%)
Headquarters: Filderstadt, Germany
Top SAP IT service and consulting partner All for One Steeb grew revenues almost completely organically by 11 per cent in its financial year ending 31 September 2019 to €332.5m.
Its cloud services and support revenues grew by an impressive 28 per cent over the course of the year to €59.8m, while its recurring revenue business grew 14 per cent to €155.7m.
The company claims to be SAPs largest partner worldwide, and is also a Gold-level Microsoft partner. It employs 1,300 staff and claims to serve 2,000 customers in the DACH region.
Revenues: €358.5m (+4%)
Headquarters: Nieuwegein, the Netherlands
After a woeful 2017 which saw Ordina's stock price tank by 27 per cent and its profits shrivel by four per cent, the Dutch systems integrator was back to fighting form last year.
Revenues were up by four per cent in full-year 2018 to €358.5m while EBITDA soared by 29 per cent. Its share price similarly pogoed, soaring by 25 per cent over the 12 months of 2018.
CEO Joe Maes claimed its Belgian and Luxembourgian business performed particularly well in 2018, along with a strong performance in the Dutch public sector.
A top software partner of Microsoft, Oracle, IBM and Salesforce, Ordina claims to specialise in cloud, mobility and big data. It was founded in 1973, and employs 2,700 staff across the Netherlands.
This Dutch systems integrator endured a difficult couple of years, logging its third consecutive year of sales decline in 2016. Its share price also suffered, plummeting 31 per cent following the release of its 2016 figures at the start of 2017.
Ordina's public sector business in its Dutch homeland had been spiralling for a number of quarters, prompting Ordina to implement a €15m cost-cutting programme, which saw the firm shed 175 staff during the course of 2016, and a further 149 in 2017. But 2018 actually saw Ordina grow its headcount. The firm added around 90 new staff to the business over the course of the year.
Revenues: €367.2m (+49%)
Headquarters: London, UK
A true M&A machine in the European managed services space, UK-based Claranet has acquired around 20 companies across the continent within the last five years.
But its most recent expansion play came organically through the opening of a new sales office in northern France.
M&A helped supercharge Claranet's revenues in 2018. The firm posted 49 per cent revenue growth year on year to £321.6m (€367.20m).
Claranet has more than 2,200 staff across 24 offices in nine countries globally. It operates 43 of its own datacentres but has also made huge investments in public cloud vendors through its abundant acquisitions of specialist players.
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