Italy's Axélero has plans for Atex post-acquisition

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Italian internet marketing solutions company Axélero will bring digital knowhow, AI developments and commercial skills to publishing systems developer Atex following its 6.7 million Euros (A$10 million) acquisition last week.

The company, which is listed on the AIM Italia stock exchange, announced on Friday that it has signed a binding agreement for the acquisition of the Atex Group subsidiaries in Italy, France, Sweden, the UK, Finland, Australia, Singapore and the US, in what it says is its first step on the road to international expansion.

Axélero, which was listed on the AIM exchange at the end of 2014, is about twice the size of Atex, based on figures provided by the company. Atex Group generated consolidated revenues of 19 million Euros and an EBITDA of 1. 7 million Euros in 2016 and is cash positive.

The company says aggregated proforma revenues would have been 65 million Euros, with an EBITDA of 10 million Euros.

Axélero says it expects "significant cost and revenue synergies" from the acquisition, with positive effects on margins. Of the purchase price, 6 million Euros will come from bank loans, with the balance held in an escrow account for 12 months.

Atex operates in the UK, Germany, Scandinavia, the US, Middle East and Asia Pacific - many countries of which are new to Axélero - in addition to Italy, with its technology used by about 200 publishing groups worldwide.

The combined entity is "poised to become a benchmark in data, content and advertising management', the statement says, the acquisition speeding up development of a "cloud journalism" platform which it says will revolutionise publishing.

"At the same time, Axélero will leverage Atex' technology assets to strengthen the enterprise-level solutions of its executive division, and adapt them to meet the specific requirements of Axélero's core SME market."

Chairman and chief executive Leonardo Cucchiarini (pictured) says the company is "very satisfied" with its strategy: "In less than three years since the IPO, we are today operating in international markets thanks to the acquisition of a major player like Atex.

"The union of each company's distinctive strengths will generate synergies in terms of innovation, knowhow, leading edge products and services for businesses and media players alike".

A new Italian subsidiary, Atex International srl, will acquire the share capital of Atex Global Media srl (Italy), Atex Global Media sàrl (France), Atex Holdings Sweden AB (Sweden), Atex Media Ltd (England), Atex Media OY (Finland), Atex Pty Ltd (Australia), Atex Pte Ltd (Singapore) and Atex IMC Inc (USA).

The share and purchase agreement - with a price established as 2.8 times Atex's 2016 EBITDA - was signed by Kistefos International Equity, which owns Atex Group Limited outright. Closing is expected to occur by mid-July. Atex is free of financial debt and has about 2 million Euros available cash.

Axélero was established in 2008 with a mission to accelerate the business of small and medium enterprises by providing them with access to digital solutions and services such as those used by big. Four business units - smart and business for SMEs and SOHOs, executive, specialising in custom projects for large companies and government, Next, focused on developing artificial intelligence-based products, and Lab, a corporate venture capital vehicle accelerating startups.

Among the many companies which have gone into today's Atex is Australia's Cybergraphic, founded by Bernie Grinberg and at one time the dominant systems provider in the country. Atex' own roots began with its foundation in Massachusetts in 1973 by MIT students Douglas Drane and Charles and Richard Ying, who had developed a new typesetting display terminal and went on to create a multiuser system based on DEC PDP-11 computers.

Among former employees was Paul Brainerd, one of the fathers of the desktop publishing revolution, who left Atex in 1984 to found PageMaker developer Aldus.

Atex was bought and resold by Kodak in the 1990s, became part of Systdeco and was spun off as Atex Media Solutions in 1995 with present owner Kistefos its biggest shareholder. Acquisitions have included Media Command, parts of Unisys, Mactive, and notably in 2008 Swedish CMS developer Polypoly.

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