IT retailers, distributors to enter market

Rumors have intensified lately over the possible entry of US company Ingram Micro into the Greek IT products’ wholesale distribution market. Ingram Micro, the greatest global distributor of IT products, already services the Greek market through its Dutch subsidiary Ingram Micro BV. Ingram Micro’s turnover in the first half of 2005 reached $13.89 billion, a third of which came from its European operations. Net profits, at $84.1 million, are indicative of the very small margins with which the sector’s companies operate. According to sources, a competitor in the field, ASBIS, is also considering expanding into Greece. ASBIS, headquartered in Cyprus but controlled by Belarussian businessmen, is a leader in the IT distribution market in the former Soviet Union countries and in Central Europe. Two Greek-owned companies, global Finance and Alpha Venture, are shareholders in ASBIS, which had a turnover of $750 million last year. The two foreign companies’ plans come at a time when local distributors are in decline: Of the three major Greek companies in the sector – Info-Quest, Pouliadis and Associates and Altec – only the first appears to have good prospects, mostly through a likely sale of its subsidiary Q-Telecom. All three have been impacted by a global price war and their failure to diversify successfully in order to find other income sources. Altec has essentially withdrawn from the distribution sector, while Pouliadis is negotiating with banks to refinance its debt. At the same time, big foreign IT product retailers, such as Germany’s Media Markt, part of the Metro retailing group, have plans to enter the Greek market. Media Market is expected to open superstores in Athens and Thessaloniki over the next few months.