Spigraph Acquires Dicom-Initial Thoughts

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In what is being billed as a merger of Europe’s top two value-added distributors (VAD) in the document capture space, Spigraph has acquired Dicom. Spigraph, based in France was founded in 1997 and has been expanding rapidly in recent years after taking on some venture capital in 2011. Dicom, which was founded in 1991, acquired the ISV Kofax in 1999 and then was spun off by Kofax in 2011.

When we talked last year with Dicom executives last year in the wake of the appointment of former software executive Rudolf Gessinger as chairman, they positioned a then recent announcement of a partnership between Kofax and Spigraph as non-threatening to Dicom’s business. The Dicom execs positioned ALOS (which had been acquired by Spigraph and expanded at VAD’s presence significantly in Dicom stronghold’s Switzerland and Germany) as primarily in the systems integration business and Spigraph as stronger as a VAD in geographical regions like France, where Dicom was not particularly strong.

This absence of overlap was reenforced in a quote from Joe Froning, CEO of Dicom International, which appeared in the recent press release announcing the merger with Spigraph, “Even though our two companies have been working on the same markets until now, the geographical and functional areas that have overlapped are minimal,” he said. “This merger therefore represents a uniting of our respective forces.”

Froning will stay with the company as Senior Vice President of Dicom/Spigraph Distribution.Wayne Davey, previously CEO of Spigraph, becomes CEO of the group. The group’s head office will be at Spigraph’s headquarters in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier.

The press release lists the combined company’s turnover as €130 million, or approximately $175 million. In its final full fiscal year as part of Kofax (ended June 30, 2010), Kofax reported $125 million was generated from its hardware distribution business. When Spigraph acquired Swiss-German document imaging systems integration specialist ALOS in 2011, the combined entity’s revenue was listed at over $65 million. So, there has apparently been erosion in revenue in the past couple years, which is not surprising considering the state of the scanner market today, which is how VADs have historically generated the majority of their revenue.

As prices and margins continue to drop on scanners and related service contracts, VADs, especially in more mature markets like North America and Western Europe, have had to look to new avenues to generate revenue. (Although VADs in emerging markets like the Middle East, such as Forefront Technologies seem to still be growing at a healthy rate.) Gessinger’s software background is what made him attractive to the Dicom board, which brought him in. And, Spigraph, through its acquisition of ALOS, has a systems integration practice that helps further diversify that its offerings, which is a good thing.

Between the two organizations, Spigraph and Dicom will now cover a good portion of EMEA, including both mature and developing countries, with a single entity, that offers a combination of document capture-related hardware and software sales, support, and professional services. This variety and geographical infrastructure, along with the resources of a 400-person entity, should make the organization a more valuable asset to resellers and end users, as well as create more profits, than either company would be able achieve on its own.

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