Commander will prevail in Volante bid: Forrester

Commander Communications will succeed in its takeover bid for Volante, despite the target's board officially rejecting an offer from the predator yesterday, and could grow to challenge heavyweights in the services space, according to analyst firm Forrester Research. Forrester senior analyst Sam Higgins said he expected Commander to continue to pursue its target, and believed the predator's recent form and finances would make the acquisition a reality.

Commander Communications will succeed in its takeover bid for Volante, despite the target's board officially rejecting an offer from the predator yesterday, and could grow to challenge heavyweights in the services space, according to analyst firm Forrester Research.

Forrester senior analyst Sam Higgins said he expected Commander to continue to pursue its target, and believed the predator's recent form and finances would make the acquisition a reality.

"I still think there's room to move for Commander. I don't think they'll leave things as they are," Higgins said.

"From my discussions with [Commander], they pride themselves on evaluating a company's market value."

Commander made a AU$130 million offer for Volante in late December, which was formally rejected by Volante directors yesterday.

However, in a research note issued this week, Forrester said it "ultimately anticipates a successful takeover of Volante by Commander".

Commander has been on an acquisition path in recent years. Last year it purchased Personal Broadband Australia, which provides the iBurst wireless broadband service, as well as Axon Group and LSP Group.

"They have been trying to move from being a box-pusher to a service solutions provider," Higgins said. Commander's product revenue grew 51 percent in 2005, while services gained just 9 percent.

"And if you want to make that push up into IT governance and planning services, it's really another thing to provide the sort of consulting you'd expect from a [consulting specialist like] BearingPoint."

Acquisition then was the Commander strategy, and one that would continue even if the Volante bid should fail, according to Higgins.

"The important thing is that the equity they have access to is not tied to the Volante bid," he said.

"They won't go overboard on [Volante] because they've got a free hand to look for somebody else," he said, naming fellow Australian service providers Oakton and WebCentral as possible takeover targets.

A bigger Commander, and one that incorporated a services business to complement its telecommunications specialisation, could pose a challenge to established rivals like EDS, IBM, CSC, Telstra's Kaz, Optus' Alphawest and Dimension Data.

"That is where I would put them," Higgins said of an expanded Commander business.

"They certainly get up there with Alphawest and Kaz. They'll bump into EDS and IBM a lot more.

"[A Volante takeover] will raise them to the enterprise level," he said.

A Commander-Volante acquisition could also position the company as the second-biggest Australian-owned IT services provider, after Telstra's Kaz.

While any Commander acquisition is expected to substantially change competition in the services space, the bid was also reflective of attitudes among local chief information officers, according to Higgins.

"If you ignore the fact that Volante's directors aren't happy with their share offers, there's an important story here for the local market," he said.

"Local CIOs are saying 'I want to deal with a combined company, I want my managed services from one place'.

"If you start to get into a panel contract scenario, where you're buying network services, telecommunications, hosting etc, it gets ridiculous.

"With one provider you can get economies of scale, and reduce managing all those contracts."

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