BUSINESSFORUM

Company Information: 

Businessforum Oy is the second largest retailer of IT hardware, software and services in Finland. The company is founded in 1993 and it was privately owned. Businessforum’s business model is based on a network of cooperating partners, including customers, manufacturers, merchants, and service providers, and Businessforum itself. The company's business has been built particularly to serve the public sector (state and local government procurement in different organizations), as well as large and medium sized enterprises.

Businessforum has a market share of over 25 % in the governmental IT sector (Hansel) and around a 25% market share in the municipal sector (KL- Kuntahankinnat) and around a 5 % market share in the corporate sector. Business Forum`s turnover was approximately 80 million EUR, of which 90% came from resale of IT equipment.

Former Situation: 

Businessforum had reached a size where they needed new skills to develop business areas to the next stage of growth. The owners had experience of an international organization and they knew how much being a part of a bigger group could offer. The owners also knew that most likely the new owner would not be found in Finland.

ProMan took an active role from the start. Before starting the project, we went through potential international buyers with the owners, we estimated the value of the company and we analyzed various options on how to maximize the business value through the acquisition process.

The Process: 

ProMan managed the international, competitive sales process, with the aim of maximizing the value of the company and obtaining good terms and conditions of the sale for the owners. The owners looked for an industrial buyer with a genuine will and the resources to positively contribute to the further development of Businessforum.

We did not get to the desired outcome during the first round of competitive bidding in 2011, so we had to reevaluate the sales process. We decided to focus on the three selected international buyer candidates, with whom we had negotiated on a regular basis. We updated the company material and continued negotiations with the selected parties, until a breakthrough in fall of 2012.

Dustin renewed their management in 2012, and Dustin's majority owner Altor Funds made changes in the company's ownership structure to commit to growth through significant acquisitions in the future. During the negotiations with Dustin, we focused on defending the company value of Businessforum, optimizing the structure of the transaction in favor of the owners,

and taking the legal terms and conditions to a normal level to protect the seller`s position.

"ProMan’s contribution was of paramount importance in this complex and time-consuming process. It made no sense for our management to try to cope with the challenging sales process beside the normal everyday work, not in our case and probably not in any acquisition or sales process. The acquisition arrangements require its own special skills and time management" says Kari Lintunen.

 All negotiations were held in strictest confidence to avoid any market rumors. This was successfully achieved by limiting the group of people aware of the negotiations to the main shareholders. The minority shareholders were informed only after the transaction had been principally agreed upon and the personnel just before the transaction became public. The personnel were also given instructions to contact customers and stakeholders and notify them of the transaction. The active personal contacting received a particularly high praise from the customers.

The Situation Today: 

The acquisition enabled the owners to cash in the company value and gave them the opportunity to develop the company further as part of a larger entity. All former owners of Businessforum continued at the company after the transaction and some also became shareholders in Dustin.

During the sales process Businessforum grew to become Finland's largest IT equipment retailer and further strengthened its position as a leading supplier to local government and the state sector. The company turnover in 2013, when the transaction was carried out, was around 120 MEUR. In terms of operations, Dustin brings a great deal of added value to Businessforum. "For example, only nine months after the sale, Businessforum is well on their way on selling software licenses, which was a whole new business area for us. In Finland, the license market has been limited due to barriers to entry, such as resource and volume requirements. Dustin is a big dealer in the license trade for all of its market segments,

 

and its license distribution rights have now been expanded to Businessforum" says the company's CEO and one of the former owners Kari Lintunen.

Dustin also supports Businessforum in the development of e-commerce and logistics. "Dustin’s logistics center is located near Stockholm, from which ordered products can be delivered to Finland the next day. Another significant benefit is that the cross-border client agreements made by Dustin can be extended to Businessforum, and we have also received support in expanding into market segments that we already had plans to enter" says Lintunen.

Dustin acquired a new market area alongside the other Nordic countries, more knowledge of the bidding and tendering process to local governments and the state, and strengthened its position as the largest retailer/supplier with additional volumes.