Itannex has been supporting the construction sector in the Netherlands and its surrounding countries for more than 20 years as a supplier of CAD and BIM solutions and a reseller of Autodesk software. This pioneer in the digital transition of the construction sector mainly supplies architects, manufacturers of construction materials, contractors, engineers, public authorities, water companies, installers and installation advisors. Itannex is a major player in its market: between 2017 and 2019, its turnover doubled to 20 million euros.
“Itannex’s four shareholders, which includes me, are all getting on a bit, so we needed to come up with a plan for the future”, Wim Bremmer (59) explains. Harry Moleman, Jan Nijkamp and Alex Horsman are the three other shareholders in the company. “Harry was looking to retire, and for the others, the main thing was making sure that the business could continue to grow, especially in the field of design software for the automotive industry. That said, the Netherlands is too small a country to host multiple large resellers, so we wanted to buy another business or allow ourselves to be taken over by a larger company. There is a strong trend towards consolidation in our area. Taking over another business wasn’t exactly straightforward, so with a new management team in place, we came to the conclusion that we needed to prepare Itannex for sale to safeguard the future growth of the company. We enlisted Marktlink to help us with this process, as we had little experience of selling a business.
During a process as complex as this, it’s handy to have a specialist on board who knows exactly what’s involved.”
Strategic buyer with experience and know-how
The Itannex shareholders wanted to sell to an established strategic buyer with the right level of experience and know-how to continue expanding the business. A partnership in which both entities stood to benefit from joining forces: that was the idea. “In total, we spoke to five candidates, all of which we already knew as they were familiar players on the market. Various large market actors with ambitions for growth turned out to be interested. Arkance, a French family business specialising in the distribution of capital goods for the industrial and construction sectors, seemed like the right fit to strengthen our market share in the Benelux.”
Wim was already aware that Arkance (a Groupe Monnoyeur subsidiary that records an annual turnover of two billion euros) were interested due to an encounter around four years ago. During a major kick-off event for new products in Las Vegas, the French business approached him in the lobby of a large hotel. “It was an informal conversation, but it soon became clear to me that they were looking for potential acquisition targets. I felt uncomfortable with that: it was too soon, Itannex still felt like my baby. It wasn’t the right place to discuss this type of thing either; I felt uneasy at the fact that all of the world’s biggest players in our field could be looking over our shoulder. Before you know it, rumours could start spreading. Still, once I had some time to reflect on it, that conversation triggered the moment where we, the management team, turned to one another and said: we need to have a think about
whether selling Itannex might be an option.”
The new round of exploratory discussions with Arkance started right before the coronavirus pandemic, and an offer came in on 23 March, during the first lockdown. On 3 April, the parties signed a Letter of Intent, and by 12 June, the deal was done. “Arkance was the only party that made the effort to come speak to us in person, all the way from Paris, and despite the travel restrictions. Their vision aligned with ours; an acquisition would create fantastic career opportunities for our staff, for example, both nationally and internationally. On top of that, they put in an offer that simply couldn’t be ignored from a financial perspective. As a result of these factors, it feels more like Arkance actually chose us rather than the other way round.”
As a supplier of digital construction solutions, Arkance had already forged its way to the top of the market, but Itannex was the piece that completed the puzzle. “The Netherlands is on the cutting edge in Europe when it comes to technology. And Itannex is a genuine pioneer in the Netherlands in terms of digital solutions: we understood their potential and were able to convince others. We did so by investing early in new solutions — in Revit, for example, which is a 3D software package for architects. That way, we could maintain our position as market leader. Arkance wanted to take steps towards digitisation in the markets in which it operated. They were looking for partners who had the necessary know-how, as digitisation is the future for all major players. And that’s exactly what Itannex excels at: we have the software solutions needed for the future. As a result, we were a perfect fit in terms of knowledge and know-how.”
Arkance is looking to expand its geographic footprint in Europe with a view to achieving a turnover of 300 million euros by 2024. “There is a huge shortage of housing around the world, and our business is fully geared towards facilitating growth in house building. As a consequence, Arkance can intensify its focus on this area.” The professional and experienced management team at Itannex will stay in place. “I will remain involved in the business until the summer after the transaction, as an advisor to the management team”, Wim explains. Fellow shareholder Alex Horsman will also stay in place to safeguard Itannex’s culture and DNA and to further develop its online store. Wim comments: “I don’t think a lot will change for our employees; they’re ambitious and happy with the stride forward we’re making. Still, there are plenty of changes taking place in the background: last week, we changed our logos, for example. To me, it’s good to know that the HR aspect of our business will receive the attention it needs as a result of the acquisition. That’s something we weren’t always able to spend enough time on in the past.”
Helping young entrepreneurs
From a personal perspective, Wim would like to spend more time in the future helping young entrepreneurs with the challenges they face in the world of business. “When you start out as an entrepreneur, you encounter all kinds of issues: financing problems, labour disputes, having to start all over again. With my experience, I can provide them with advice. I wouldn’t even be doing it for the money; I’d get great joy out of it, and I’ll have a lot more time available in the future.” Wim is firmly convinced of the benefits of enlisting a party like Marktlink for buying or selling a business: “Sure, it costs money, but it pays off in the long term. You need that kind of support, and it increases your market value: you’re only viewed as a serious and professional party when you’ve gathered people around you who can help you through this kind of process in a professional way.”