Rocom Sells Out to ATC

One of the channels worst kept secrets of recent weeks was finally let out of the bag today when it was confirmed that Essex based reseller AT Communications had bought distributor Rocom for £17.6 million.

The move, which sees Richard Carter installed as the new Managing Director of Rocom, represents a bold step for ATC and is by far the largest acquisition to date for Chief Executive Alex Tupman.

Wetherby based Rocom was formed during the period surrounding the UK market liberalisation in the early 1980’s by Bob Old who has grown the company to become one of the largest telecoms distributors in the country. The company is based on a large freehold site and is believed to be entirely owned by Old.

Speaking to Comms Business Magazine today Richard Carter was keen to stress to resellers that the Rocom business was being reorganised into different groups with the former Rocom direct business transferring to the ATC reseller end of the operation.

“This represents a great opportunity for resellers to gain direct access to the ATC network services operation which includes the former T-Liaison business,” said Carter, who also confirmed that Both Bob Old and Steve Norman had left the company with immediate effect.

Since taking ATC on to the AIM Market of the London Stock Exchange in July 2005 Tupman has not stood still.

In December that year he bought reseller Sterry Group for £6.27 million plus their debt of around £2.2 million and the following month announced the formation of a Network Services Division with the acquisition of Leeds based virtual network operator T-Liaison for £1.1 million, a move that also included ATC assuming £1.6 million of debt T-Liaison had previously accrued.

In May this year ATC bought Britannia Telecom Group Limited for £3.84 million to extend their regional customer base

Tupman has made other technological investments with an eye to the future and in March this year announced a hosted IP telephony play with the launch of SiNET, a service based on a recently purchased Mitel 3600 platform.

Alex Tupman, ATC Group Chief Executive commented on the Acquisition as follows: “This Acquisition is a major step forward for the ATC business in both scale and scope and establishes ATC as a leading force in the business communications market.

“Our interim results published today demonstrate that we have a successful record of integrating earnings enhancing acquisitions and we believe that Rocom will be no exception.

“As a well-established, sizeable business we believe that Rocom will help to accelerate the rate of growth of the combined group through cross-selling opportunities based on a wider and complementary suite of products and by extending our industry partnerships.”

ATC has also brought high profile channel players into their team, notably Campbell Williams from Mitel to head up marketing and Paul McEwan, who headed channel at Cable & Wireless, as business development director, network services.

The issue now is what Tupman will do with Rocom. The appointment of Carter as MD will be seen as a positive ‘New Lamps for Old’ move and I am sure he and Tupman will quickly form a bond. Tupman also needs a channel route to market for his hosted telephony play to realise the investments already made in T-Liaison and the Mitel 3600.

Commenting on the acquisition Martin Hatcher at Distributor MTV Telecom said, “Bob Old and I have been friendly competitors for 25 years and I am delighted that he has fulfilled his ambition in building and disposing of one of the best distribution companies in our sector; I wish him and his wife Thelma every happiness for the future.

From a business perspective, I await with interest how the market will react to a direct sales operation acquiring Rocom. The next few months should prove interesting and needless to say, I wish AT Communications and Richard Carter every success.”

Meanwhile, David George at Crane Telecommunications said, “This is an interesting move but deals by resellers that involve distributors are often complex. The acquisition will likely open up the hosted telephony opportunity for ATC.”