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Comment: One competitor less?

Ulrich Spranger
Ulrich Spranger
Yesterday, an American competitor of ours announced on the stock exchange that it would like to discontinue the distribution of »non-digital products«, i.e. hardware, in some geographical areas. Among those areas affected is Europe. The business should be sold. But it is not said to whom, or if there are already negotiations, or when that could be. They want to free up the working capital used in this business into a business with higher margin opportunities.

Since the announcement yesterday, my phone has been constantly ringing. Everyone wants to know what I think about it. Did we win a war? No, we were never at war.

First of all, this competitor and his staff are highly esteemed by me. We occasionally see each other at events and there is no hostility.

Second, of course, selling or discontinuing the hardware distribution in Europe would generate a lot of movement. The message to the employees and the customers is quite clear: your area is not exactly the pearl of the company; our capital is misused there. This area is now the unfavoured child.

Third, is that good for Jarltech? Probably. For long-term things, one or the other dealer might see that now could be the right time for a change of his distribution partner.

Fourth, is that good for the resellers? Sure, it's always good for a reseller to shop at Jarltech :) However, there are still enough distributors on the market who do a good job. The selection is hardly limited.

Fifth, what are the vendors doing? Probably nothing. There are on-going contracts and one will first have to wait and see. Some vendors who like to pump goods into the channel at the end of each quarter, might have less choice. But if the other distributors make more sales as a result, they can also store more. We have sufficient resources in every respect to absorb additional business.

Good news for the vendors: here’s one less that can make demands to push for certain benefits in Europe based on their success in the US. After all, most vendors are headquartered in the US.

All in all, the competitor repositions itself and at some day will be no longer our competitor. I do not think that this part of the company will simply disappear. There will be a new owner, the winds of change will blow, and we will see what happens.

Why is this message coming precisely at this time? Above all, why are nearly 500 employees now unsure about their future, without anything being specific? By telling that this part of their business is not really delivering what they expect, will this not have a negative effect on the price when selling this business?

That, I think, is a typical action of an American company which is listed on the stock exchange. At the same time yesterday, the quarterly and annual results were announced. The last quarter was, according to their own statement, »below expectations«. Since analysts can not help but notice that others are evidently growing in the same business and delivering good results, it was probably important to show some kind of activity now. The outlook of freeing up working capital and an overall lower turnover, but higher profits, should certainly drive the stock price, or at least prevent a downward spiral due to the weaker quarter. It could have worked, too: so far, the price has fallen, but only very slightly.

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