Quebec’s IDS Enters GTA with Cell-a-Net Buy

HandshakeAlthough it’s nominally based in Ontario, Intelligent Data Systems Canada has built itself into a managed print powerhouse in Quebec, through the merger of a number of print-focused solution providers over the last three years. But with its purchase of Mississauga, Ont.-based Cell-a-Net Printer Services, the group has both started building out its presence in its home market, and planted the seeds for further expansion.

Since it came together with the merger of five Quebec-based print solution providers two years ago, IDS has been planning to go national. But now, with its the Quebec market very familiar, and management staff and IT infrastructure in place, the group is starting to make moves.

“Our thesis is to create a national independent offering of managed print services,” said IDS CEO Bill Hishon.

The purchase of Cell-a-Net is just the first move for the company. Hishon says he plans to make another two or three acquisitions over the course of 2013 to make sure the Toronto region is well-covered. The company targets both IT-focused managed print service providers, and traditional copier dealers. Hishon said that while not many of the prospective acquisitions are likely to have “true” managed print services on offer, he’s looking more for company’s with existing recurring revenues, be they managed print proper, or cost-per-page arrangements with customers. And he hinted that he’d likely seek out a company with a copier background as his next Toronto area purchase. IDS works most closely with HP on the print side, and Kyocera on the copier side. Cell-a-Net is predominantly based an HP partner.

The Canadian market for independent print-focused solution providers changed dramatically early last year, when Xerox snapped up LaserNetworks, by far the largest independent managed print provider in Canada. With Laser part of a vendor, the Canadian managed print market became the big and the small – a select few vendor-based managed print programs, and a large number of small, regional or local solution providers focused on managed print.

“There’s been a gap in the marketplace for midmarket, national managed print that’s truly independent and best-of-class,” said Kevin Hiebert, president of Cell-a-Net.

Hiebert had been targeting that gap through the National Print Services Alliance; a network of regional print-based solution providers that he formed with similar managed print service providers from across the country. And along with acquiring Cell-a-Net, IDS also gains control of that group. Cell-a-Net was previously responsible for Ontario and Quebec within the NPSA, but before being purchased by IDS, had to sub-contract some business in Quebec, Hiebert said. With IDS taking Cell-a-Net’s place on that group, Quebec is well covered.

NPSA will become all the more important as IDS looks to repeat its acquisition strategy to build up in other regions. For starters, it gives the company the opportunity to call itself instantly a national player, as it has existing relationships with partners in Eastern and Western Canada.

“It’s an opportunity for us to spread our solutions across the country without having our own physical presence in all of the regions,” Hishon said.

And when it comes time for IDS to enter those markets, other NPSA members will likely be the first partners upon whose doors Hishon will come knocking, as to some degree, there’s both a business familiarity, and similar tools and processes in place through the framework of the NPSA.

Hishon said the group’s focus is on integrating Cell-A-Net and finding further partners to expand its presence in the GTA. But it may be looking to expand beyond Ontario and Quebec as soon as later this year.

“I doubt we’d close Q4 [with a presence] in the West,” Hishon said. “But you never know. It would be a great year if we could get one in the West.”