"Speaking about Denmark, there has been some noise in the market, if I can say that, for some reason at certain times," demurred Atea's CEO Steiner Sønsteby during the firm's quarterly presentation to investors.
Atea Denmark has been an albatross around the neck for the group for years.
Bribery and corruption allegations, which prosecutors claimed occurred between 2009 and 2014, culminated in four one-time employees being jailed last year, including ex-group CEO Claus Hougesen.
Then, in July, Denmark's Ministry of Finance slapped a ban on the VAR from doing business in the public sector.
It was a huge blow for Atea.
The Oso-based firm derives around 60 per cent of its group revenues from public sector contracts, and Denmark is Atea's third largest market, representing 23 per cent of group revenue in 2018.
The interdict was lifted two months later, but the damage was already done.
In an earnings webcast Sønsteby referenced one high profile consequence in Q4; Apple freezing its agreement with Atea in Denmark.
"I have publicly stated that it had no impact on the company," he insisted.
"And to be very specific, our revenue in Denmark was down NOK 21m in Apple for the whole year, and none of that came from Q4.
"We have other agreements and we will be back as a certified Apple reseller in Denmark."
Sønsteby insisted that no other vendors cancelled contracts.
He also claimed that "it's the first time in four years that [Atea] Denmark has regained its position in the market".
But undoubtedly the Danish business still has a long way to go if it hopes to get up to speed with Atea's other Nordic subsidiaries. Taking the Danish business in isolation, EBIT tanked a whopping 90.3 per cent in Q4, from DKK 84m (€11.25m) to DKK 8m (€1.07m).
Revenues were down a much more modest 4.4 per cent to DKK 1.852bn.
Regaining market confidence
However, a breakdown of its financials reveals there is light at the end of the tunnel for Atea Denmark.
Sønsteby claimed that Denmark's public sector business is recovering and was at the same level in Q4 2018 as Q4 2017.
In particular, "software revenue increase by 23.9 per cent, driven by large orders from the public sector".
It's true that since re-gaining access to the Danish public sector, Atea was quick to win sizeable contracts.
In late October, Atea won a deal with the largest public procurement organisation in Denmark, worth DKK 720m (€96.5m) over four years, for managed services and IT colocation.
However, enterprise customers have been slower to return to the Oslo-based reseller.
"Enterprise we said would take a little longer, and enterprise was down around ten per cent in Q4 2018 compared to Q4 2017," Sønsteby said.
In particular, services revenues were down 8.4 per cent in Q4, "based on lower demand form corporate customers".
[Continued on page two...]
Some say performance, others say money but it may be systems and processes that carry the day
German reseller opens office in Slovakia and pledges to hit headcount of 150 by end of 2020
Xerox's bid for HP was confirmed last week
German VAR expands in western Switzerland with Codalis acquisition