Specialist Computer Holdings Ltd. - Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on Specialist Computer Holdings Ltd.

James House
Warwick Road
United Kingdom

Company Perspectives

Our business is about people, about high service content, about a quality approach and, above all, about honest and professional engagement. Our people share the benefits and values of a single, unified, European family. We understand the needs of our customers, adapt quickly to change, and deliver the services and support they need, across Europe and beyond.

History of Specialist Computer Holdings Ltd.

Specialty Computer Holdings Ltd. (SCH) claims the title of the world's fastest-growing, privately held IT services group. The Birmingham, England-based company is also one of the European markets top IT services providers, posting sales of nearly £2 billion ($3 billion) in the mid-2000s. The company has targeted a position among the global top 20 IT services companies by 2008. In support of this effort, SCH has established a presence in more than 65 countries worldwide. The company's operates through four primary divisions. SCC Enterprise Solutions provides IT infrastructure design and delivery services to large scale corporations, as well as government and public sector organizations. Global Services provides international IT integration services for internationally operating companies and organizations. Lifecycle develops and delivers network integration software and services. SCC Exchange was created at the end of 2004 in order to focus specifically on the needs of the mid-scale enterprise market. SCH has built up an impressive client list, including British Airways, IKK, Arkopharma, La Poste, Sodexho, RWE, Dusseldorf Airport, La Caixa, Thetis, Vodaphone, and the Dutch Foreign Office, among others. SCH remains 100 percent controlled by founder Peter Rigby, joined by his sons, James and Steven.

Computer Services Startup in the 1970s

The growing adoption of computer systems by Britain's corporations in the 1970s created a demand for qualified personnel. Peter Rigby recognized the opportunity to get in at the ground floor of what promised to become a major new services market, and in 1975 he founded his own company, Specialist Computer Recruitment (SCR). Rigby's company started out with just £3,000 of Rigby's own savings. Over the next decades, SCR expanded its range of recruitment expertise, providing personnel for a range of positions, including management, administrative, logistics, sales and training, as well as call center and telecom operations.

By the end of the decade, however, Rigby spotted a new opportunity, that of directly providing services to businesses seeking to outsource their computer-related functions. In 1980, Rigby established a new company, Specialist Computer Services, which launched payroll support services, as well as other mainframe-based administrative services.

Rigby's next extension came just two years later, when he set up the first Specialists Computer Centres dealership. Opened in Birmingham, SCC offered integrated hardware and software packages, as well as systems support services. SCC's first major step forward came in 1983, when the company became an IBM PC dealer, which by then had begun to impose itself as a standard for the personal computer market.

By 1984, SCC had already imposed itself as a major contender in the U.K. IT services market. In that year, the company received a major contract from the Government Communications Headquarters worth £4 million. The contract allowed the company to begin its first geographic expansion, with new offices opened in London and in Liverpool that year. By the end of 1986, the company's network had grown to include offices in Nottingham, Manchester, Southampton, and Glasgow. The company had already completed its first acquisition, of the Byte Shop Group.

One year later, the group's sales had already doubled, from £18 million to £37 million. Rigby formed a holding company for his expanding operations, called Specialist Computer Holdings (SCH) and moved into a new 30,000-square-foots headquarters and logistics facility in Birmingham. The company had also launched a new subsidiary, ETC, which acted as a wholesaler for IBM PC systems. SCC's partnership with IBM helped SCH boost its revenues past £70 million by the end of 1989.

British Top Five in the 1990s

SCC added news offices in London, Edinburgh, and Bristol into the next decade. In 1991, the company made two new acquisitions, of Asystel, boosting its IT services operations, and of Applied Micros' PC and training units. The latter acquisition enabled the company to launch its own software and applications training business, Specialist Computer Education (SCE) in 1991. Meanwhile, the hugely successful launch of a new generation of the Microsoft Windows operations system in the early 1990s transformed the PC sector. SCH profited strongly from the upsurge in PC purchases, emerging as one of the country's five largest dealers. The company backed up its dealership operation with a launch of a consumer and small business mail order business, Byte Direct Mail Order. The Byte name remained a motor for SCH's growth into the mid-1990s, especially with the successful launch of a new retail format, Byte Computer Superstore, in 1993.

By 1995, the company had already opened 16 Byte stores. Just one year later, Byte became a national brand when SCH reached a deal with Office World to place Byte concessions in its 46 stores in England. At the same time, SCH boosted its range of retailing and wholesaling operations when it acquired Scotbyte Computers and Scotbyte Supplies.

SCH invested some £9 million in expanding its own infrastructure, including the expansion of its logistics facilities, as well as the opening of a new National Response Centre in Oldbury, through 1997. The company then returned to its external expansion that year, acquiring Network SI's maintenance services operation. This permitted the company to launch a new business, Specialist Direct, targeting the small- and medium-sized business market. Next, SCH bought up Qudis, a distributor of Hewlett Packard products, which was then merged with its ETC subsidiary in 1998.

In the meantime, however, SCH's focus on its move into the retail sector had allowed its corporate IT services operations to lag behind its competitors. The company countered this in 1999 with the purchase of Lantec, formerly part of Elcom International. The acquisition helped raise SCH's total revenues past £700, and also placed the company once again among the leaders in the U.K. corporate market.

Global Leader for the 2000s

Rigby, who by then had been joined by sons James and Steven, next became determined to expand the company's operations onto a European--and then global--scale. In 2000, the company took its first step onto the European continent, acquiring Info'Products/Allium from the Netherlands' Buhrmann for £115 million. That acquisition transformed SCH into the leading systems integration and desktop services player in the European market. The company also responded to the growing demand for global service offerings with the creation of a new subsidiary, Specialist Global Services (SGS).

SCH solidified its leader status the following year when it acquired the United Kingdom's number three player, Compelsource. This purchase was followed in 2002 by the purchase of two French distribution businesses, Metrologie France and Metrologie Systems. The company added a third French acquisition that year, buying up system integration specialist EBC Informatique. Then in 2003, the company acquired Hays Payroll UK, before turning to Spain, where it bought up GE Capital IT Solutions Spain. These purchases helped boost the company's total revenues past £2 billion.

In 2003, SCH moved to adopt a single brand for its expanded operations, placing the former Allium, SGS and Info'Products operations under the SCC umbrella. By then, the company had successfully transformed itself into a truly European company, with more than half of its sales coming from the continent.

SCH's expansion continued into 2004, with the creation of a new business unit, SCC Exchange. The new subsidiary allowed the company to provide dedicated services for the mid-sized market. At the same time, SCH continued its acquisition drive, buying up the Unix infrastructure operations of Acuma. That purchase, which placed SCH as the number three largest reseller of Unix-based systems in the United Kingdom, was part of the company's ambition to build this operation into a European leader.

SCH next turned to Germany, where it acquired Triaton GmbH, part of Hewlett Packard, which focused on product supply. The purchase helped the company solidify its position in the manufacturing and health insurance markets, in particular. In Italy, that year, SCC acquired the IT services division of the ATR Group, placing the company as that market's leader. Meanwhile, the company had completed the integration of a new Dutch unit, Pluz, a hardware distribution joint venture formerly owned by Getronics and Hagermeyer.

SCH showed no signs of slowing down into the mid-2000s. By the end of 2005, the company had completed a new acquisition, buying TBI-Proxis Services. Based in France, that company focused on providing managed services to the small and mid-sized enterprise market. By the beginning of 2006, SCH's sales approached £2.5 billion ($4 billion), and the company had succeeded in capturing the leading position in some eight European markets. SCH hoped to continue building on its success, announcing its plans to break into the ranks of the global top 20 IT services companies before the end of 2007.

Principal Divisions

SCC Enterprise Solutions; SCC Exchange; Lifecycle; Global Services.

Principal Competitors

Groupe Open; Volvo Information Technology AB; T-Systems GEI GmbH; gedas AG; Transiciel S.A.; Terra Networks S.A.; Sopra Conseil et Assistance en Informatique; GFI Informatique; Oberthur Card Systems; Computacenter France.


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