Avnet Adds Storage Muscle with Bell Micro Acquisition

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print

Avnet says there's little overlap in product lines of the two distributors, and that Bell Micro's product and geographic reach will help the company expand. The fate of the company's single-tier reseller business remains in limbo, however.

Distribution giant Avnet (NYSE:AVT) has announced a definitive agreement to buy storage-centric distributor Bell Microproducts (NASDAQ:BELM), marking the largest acquisition in Avnet’s history and one that will expand the company’s product offerings and geographies.

Specifically, Avnet will get Bell Micro’s stronghold—its hard disk drive business—plus a range of other products and geography expansions.

Wall Street liked the deal, sending Avnet shares up by 5 percent and Bell Micro shares up by 28 percent in morning trading.

Avnet Chairman and CEO Roy Vallee told analysts and media during a conference call that the products from the two companies overlapped very little. In addition, Avnet expects to add many of the employees from Bell Micro.

Avnet said that Bell Micro’s distribution business operations will be integrated into Avnet’s global operating groups, Avnet Technology Solutions and Avnet Electronics Marketing.

Bell Micro’s single-tier business in the form of its Total Tec Systems and ProSys Information Systems businesses will remain stand alone and will report directly to Avnet COO Rick Hamada for now. Avnet executives said the company was considering strategic alternatives for this business.

Avnet said that the acquisition will help it expand into storage and data centers and strengthen Avnet’s position in Europe and North America. It will also expand Avnet’s footprint in Latin America. Bell Micro’s calendar year revenues in 2009 were approximately $3 billion.

Described as a cash merger, Avnet will pay $7 per share—an equity value of $252 million and a transaction value of $594 million, assuming Bell’s net debt position of $342 million at the end of 2009.  

The combined revenues for both companies for 2009 were nearly $20 billion.

Avnet said the transaction is expected to close in 60 to 120 days, and deliver at least 12.5 percent return on capital employed (ROCE) post integration and should be immediately accretive to earnings excluding integration and transaction costs.

Bell Micro’s founder and CEO Don Bell said during a conference call with analysts and the media that he supports the deal and plans to stay on with the company and that he and Avnet Chairman CEO Roy Vallee were discussing his role.

In recent years, Bell Micro has been making moves into cloud-based businesses, and last year it announced a SAAS partnership for disaster recovery. /c/a/Networking/Bell-Micro-Teams-with-Teneros-for-SaaSbased-Disaster-Recovery-Solution-117969/

Avnet also updated its revenue forecast for the March fiscal quarter, saying it expects the Electronics Marketing Group revenue to be in the range of $2.75 billion to $2.85 billion compared with the prior range of $2.55 billion to $2.85 billion. It said revenue at the Technology Solutions Group would be in the range of $1.70 billion to $1.85 billion as compared with the prior range of $1.55 billion to $1.85 billion. Consolidated sales are expected to be between $4.45 billion and $4.70 billion.

Due to the higher revenues and an improved business mix, Avnet said it now expects earnings to be in the range of 60 cents to 66 cents per share, not including any potential restructuring charges or integration charges related to acquisitions.

Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com