Atlas Gentech & Simply Leasing | Driven by the deal, loving the success of what you do

Atlas Gentech & Simply Leasing | Driven by the deal, loving the success of what you do

With the US$151 million sale of their technology equipment group this year, Auckland businessmen 
Steve Moss, Alan Willett and Steve Varney (pictured), could justifiably call it a day. But the trio are still chasing deals; this time to build their next business Simply Leasing, in the rapidly growing equipment leasing market.

United States Fortune 500 firm Anixter International bought three firms, part-owned by the businessmen and Australian director Vin Lopes, in June for US$151m: Auckland-based communications and security technology firm Atlas Gentech and Australian-based firms Central Security Distribution and Inner Range.

Varney, Moss and Willett purchased Atlas Gentech in 2008, merged it with Security Merchants – a similar business they set up in 1992, sold it in 2004, and then bought it back in 2008.

Atlas Gentech is now the leading supplier of equipment such as CCTV, residential alarm systems, and video conferencing and telephone equipment in New Zealand.

A large part of the firm’s success was due to its focus on quality customer service, Steve Varney says. “A customer can take their business anywhere. But we had good, longstanding staff and we really preserved our customer relationships.”

The advent of CCTV – which was a fringe technology but is now mainstream – and the decline of a major competitor, also helped put the firm in pole position, he says.

The sale of the group was prompted by Lopes’ decision to exit the business. Anixter was a natural fit, Steve says, so he flew to Chicago to make a deal.

Moore Markhams Auckland played a crucial role, he says. “They really helped us with the transaction – we were dealing with lawyers in Europe, America and Russia, it got very complex.”

The firm’s team, led by director Atul Mehta, handled all the financial aspects of the sale and did a fantastic job. “The deal would have been a nightmare without them.”

Steve expects to call on their expertise again for future acquisitions made by their new venture, Simply Leasing. The seven-person firm, set up in 2013, leases all manner of equipment including furniture, communications, security and dental equipment, cars and machinery such as forklifts, to businesses.

“You lease a building from a landlord and everything inside from us.”

The business is relatively small but has grown significantly in the last two years. Turnover grew 72 percent last year and is expected to increase by almost 120 percent this year.

“In the United States and Europe, nearly 50 percent of all equipment acquisitions are leases and that trend is following on here.

“If a business buys a communications system, it’s not going to be an asset for them. It’s going to depreciate, and they will need to replace it. If they lease it, it becomes just another operating cost.”

Customers range from a panel beater leasing a small phone system to big corporates leasing a whole range of equipment. Lease terms are 36-60 months depending on the equipment. A recent big contract bagged by the firm is worth $7m.

The three businessmen are now on the hunt for acquisitions in the market and setting up an office in Australia is in the five-year plan, Steve says.

Business success is not all about chasing the money, he says. You have to love what you do.

“It’s like a game of cricket. If you don’t like it, you’re not going to practice in the nets every night. But if you love it, you are, and you are going to play as hard as you can and then the high cricket score, or high profits, will come.”

The sale of Atlas Gentech has not sated his thirst for success, Steve says. “I do love the thrill of the deal, I love winning the deal and equally I don’t like it when I lose.”

“If a business buys a communications system, it’s not going to be an asset. It’s going to depreciate.”