Bowtells buy back Notebook Depot

Bowtells buy back Notebook Depot

WA integrator, ComputerCorp, has sold repairs subsidiary, Notebook Depot, back to its original founders, Steve and Jeff Bowtell. It acquired the business as part of a $1.4 million takeover of education reseller, Fed IT, in August.

The Bowtell brothers bought the business for $375,000. The deal includes the two original Notebook Depot locations in Brisbane and Melbourne, as well as premises in Perth opened since the acquisition. Notebook Depot will also remain the preferred repairer for ComputerCorp. The subsidiary's 30 staff are expected to be retained.

As part of the agreement, Steve Bowtell has resigned as national sales manager at ComputerCorp effective March 1. Jeff Bowtell, who had been in the role of national manager for Notebook Depot, will continue in that post.

ComputerCorp CEO, Robin Rindel, said the decision to offload Notebook Depot followed a review of its business streams. While there had been plans to expand the subsidiary, ComputerCorp's management put these on hold to focus on its core integration and services areas. "We felt that this was outside of our core business," he said. "The Bowtells saw lots of opportunity to grow Notebook Depot. But we were committed to pursuing growth opportunities for ComputerCorp in the short to medium term."

Notebook Depot has vendor agreements with various brands including Toshiba, NEC, BenQ, HP and Fujitsu. The unit made $1.4 million in revenue in the six months to December 31 with a net profit of $86,000.

News of the sale came on the back of ComputerCorp's first half-year results in the six months to December 31. Despite a 10.6 per cent increase in overall revenues to $76.8 million, the company reported a net loss of $10.7 million.

It highlighted significant losses of $805,000 in South Australia and Tasmania as a major contributor. Other factors included rising staff and operational costs across all areas, as well as its decision to write-off $9.9 million in goodwill.

Staff numbers since the acquisition had fallen from 300 to 220 (excluding Notebook Depot) due to redundancies and natural attrition, Rindel said. Management shut down Computer- Corp's branded assembled desktop PC unit in August, which also caused a small reduction in revenue. Like many of its competitors, Rindel said ComputerCorp expected sales to increase in the second half of the financial year.

"The market is pretty buoyant and things are a lot better compared to a couple of years ago.

"The push from a service perspective is creeping up nicely and been a successful side to our business," he said.

Rindel said one key area of focus would be growing business outside of WA.

"We have a presence in each state but it's still small. We'd like to make significant inroads in that area," he said. "This will come through acquisition as well as organic growth. Our strategy is to get critical mass." Ideally, potential acquisitions would share common skills and vendor portfolios but bring in new customer sets, Rindel said.

He didn't rule out pursuing companies with niche skills or technologies.

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