Atea is planning to make a mammoth acquisition outside its existing Nordic and Baltic markets within the next 12 months, CEO Steinar Sønsteby has told CPI.
The NOK 34.7bn (€3.55bn)-revenue reseller giant currently operates across seven locations in the Nordics and Baltics: Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
But Sønsteby (pictured) has told CPI that he is actively looking to acquire a channel partner with at least "a couple of hundred million euros" in turnover within the next 12 months.
"Twelve months from now, I'd be disappointed if we're not in at least one more country," he said.
"We are actively searching for acquisitions. I cannot go into details, but we will actively search for opportunities outside the seven countries we are already in.
"If we do something like this, we need to do it with a big splash, so it's not going to be less than a couple of hundred million euros [in revenues]".
The Atea brand is a culmination of four IT providers across the Nordics and Baltics - Ementor, Top Nordic, Atea and Sonex Group - merging together in 2006 and 2007.
Sønsteby said there are "several reasons" to take Atea outside its existing seven markets, but he singled out that its vendor partners are encouraging the firm to expand into new countries where they are under-represented.
Atea's two largest partners by revenue are Microsoft and Cisco, but the Oslo-based reseller has strong ties with tier-one vendors including Dell EMC, VMware, Apple, HP, HPE, Lenovo, IBM and Citrix.
The CEO also said customers have been pushing Atea to expand internationally for many years, especially in industries such as fishing and oil where it has historically been strong, but the Oslo-based reseller has always refused.
Sønsteby said that the drawn-out bribery scandal affecting its Danish business, which culminated in four former Atea employees being handed prison sentences, also delayed any plans for Atea to expand internationally.
"With the situation in Denmark, I just didn't have the resources around me to do it," he said. "But when we look at Atea right now, we feel that we're actually pretty good when we compare ourselves to the other big players around the world."
While Atea has consolidated the Scandinavian channel in the past 10 to 12 years through more than 50 acquisitions, the firm's pace of M&A has slowed down over the last few years. Sønsteby said Atea has deliberately moved away from acquiring for market share - instead shifting his focus to acquiring companies around specialised technology areas.
Atea acquired Sherpa Consulting last year - Norway's "largest provider" of data analytics and business intelligence solutions as part of the new M&A strategy.
The 7,300-employee-strong firm isn't the only European reseller that has turned to making blockbuster acquisitions to expand internationally. UK-based Computacenter acquired a $600m-revenue reseller in the US called FusionStorm in October. Meanwhile, German reseller Bechtle made its largest-ever acquisition last year when it acquired €420m-revenue French player Inmac Wstore.
Another Nordic reseller, Sweden-based firm Dustin, has also been expanding internationally over the last 12 months. It broke into the Dutch market last July when it bought €67m-revenue firm Vincere Groep, which it followed up this year with two more acquisitions - another Dutch reseller called NoRisk IT, and Danish firm Norriq.
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