Italy is Apax Partners’ secret weapon

Having opened new offices in Milan, recruited a Senior Advisor and acquired BIP, Apax Partners is starting a new stage in its European development, strengthening its presence in Italy. Apax Partners has been active in Italy since 2008, first through Altran, then through Telemar and Stroili, acquired by Marlink and THOM Europe, respectively, in 2016. Here is a report on two of these Italian success stories.

Altran now a major player in Italy

A world leader in innovation and high-tech engineering consulting, Altran encourages customers to innovate differently and helps them develop new products and services or develops them for them. When Apax Partners became a shareholder in 2008, Altran was on the brink of a new phase in its Italian adventure. “We penetrated the Italian market in two phases”, explains Marcel Patrignani, CEO of Altran Italy.  The first one began in 1996, when Altran acquired two small companies in Turin and Milan. Over the next 10 years, Altran added six more companies, each one preserving its identity and its sectors of specialisation. In 2005, competitive pressure and the risk of cannibalisation prompted Altran to merge its subsidiaries. This was the start of the second phase, which lasted until 2008, during which all subsidiaries were merged. “In 2008, we had the Group’s highest level of profitability, which encouraged us to pursue unification.” This was a turning point for Altran in Italy. “Unification enabled us to continue growing and be recognised as a major player in Italy,” Marcel points out.

Altran does not have a single competitor present in all of its sectors, but Marcel indicates that there are high-potential companies in several sectors, such as automotive, aerospace, banking and energy. To preserve its leadership position, Altran is pursuing a two-pronged strategy. Firstly, it has built a strong local presence in each of its sectors’ key cities. “The Italian market is very fragmented, and each city has its speciality.” The automotive industry is concentrated in Turin and Bologna, aerospace and telecoms in Naples and Rome, military and naval industries in Pisa, etc. Nevertheless, “we have opened our R&D centres in each of these cities.” Altran’s second strategic avenue is also its greatest challenge: “maintain team spirit among our 3,300 employees spread over all of Italy.” To accomplish this while unlocking synergies, Altran uses a flat organisation. Regular dialogue is encouraged between managers and between each of the five business lines to ensure sharing of skills and cross-fertilisation. “In this way, Altran’s laboratories and innovations benefit all customers.”

“As a result, we have been successful technologically, we are still experiencing strong growth – 9% sales growth in Q1 2018 vs Q1 2017 – and we hired 700 new engineers last year”, Marcel says in summary. “We have also forged partnerships with 26 top Italian engineering schools, where we search for future talent.”

Telemar & Marlink are leaders in Italian maritime telecommunications

Telemar entered the Apax Partners universe in 2016, when it was acquired by Marlink, an Apax Partners portfolio company and world leader in satellite communication services. Before joining forces, the two companies knew each other for a long time. Attentive to its customers’ needs since 1947, Telemar identified and implemented the best maritime communications solutions for its shipowners. Marlink was among its principal service providers.

When the two companies merged in 2016, they shared the same entrepreneurial spirit and combined their expertise. “Telemar is like a ‘last-mile’ communications operator, explains Bruno Musella, CEO of Telemar. “Since the merger, we can act more quickly, by accessing all the services proposed by Marlink, while preserving our historical proximity to shipowners.”

This strength makes all the difference in a market that is constantly demanding speed and innovation. “Our biggest challenge is to prepare for our next challenge,” says Bruno with a smile. “The day we sign a contract with a Customer, Wi-Fi and What’s App and any other applications available on tablet and smartphone on land, start appearing on ships, through Marlink/Telemar satellite connectivity and solutions. So we must be in full control of the technologies and how they are evolving. To meet this challenge, Telemar and Marlink have a secret weapon: their teams of experts, who “combine sound technical knowledge with an in-depth understanding of our customers’ challenges.” Avanti!

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