Commander sale on the cards

Commander sale on the cards

Rumours are mounting that Commander assets could be sold off following its suspension from the stock exchange. According to sources close to the company, at least three organisations are currently conducting due diligence, including SP Telemedia, Powertel/AAPT and Optus.

Commander was suspended from trading on the Australian Stock Exchange on October 1 after failing to lodge its full-year accounts for the year to June 30. The integrator has attributed delays in finalising its accounts to issues with its automated billing systems and getting its franchise business off the ground.

Commander's bankers, including Westpac, are also allegedly circling the company to come up with as much as $70 million from its coffers to pay back debt. The news follows several profit downgrades by Commander to its bottom line. In its preliminary full-year financial report to June 30, it reported a net loss of $5 million off revenues of $1.09 billion. This was down from a net profit of more than $25 million the year previously. Commander's shares have also lost more than half their worth in the past six month, falling from $2 to $0.595 at the time of going to press.

Independent telco analyst, Paul Budde, blamed Commander's woes on its inability to align its telecoms systems heritage with an integrated IT and telco vision.

"In principle, Commander is on the right track by identifying SME as its core market and looking at ways to integrate telco and IT services," he said. "There's huge demand for those services at an SME level.

"The problem has been in the execution. Part of the reason is that if you merge telco and IT together, there's no doubt you cannibalise some of your own business. Commander has been selling key and PBX systems, but the market is moving towards VoIP. The other thing is Commander hasn't integrated its IT and telco sides enough to make it easy for customers - they've been left with two products."

Analysts claim anybody looking to buy into Commander would be driven by the appeal of its customer base. Optus for example, had already gained IT skills by acquiring Alphawest, Budde said.

"An acquisition by PowerTel/AAPT makes sense - they have been on an acquisitions path but don't yet have an IT element," he said. "This could be a way for them to get the IT skills and customer base."

Budde still believed Commander could make a comeback. But IDC telecoms analyst, David Cannon, said its future depended on sorting out its financing arrangements and business management issues.

"A year ago there was a good buzz around Commander and its ability to leverage its installed base of customers," he said. "They have really good technology initiatives, but it seems like they won't have the opportunity to see the fruits of their labour."

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