Axactor AB (STO: AXAO) (formerly, Nickel Mountain Group AB) has agreed to acquire Norwegian debt collection company IKAS for NOK 291 million ($35 million). The purchase price will be paid at closing through a combination of 70% in cash, and 30% in Axactor shares.

In November 2015 Endre Rangnes, former CEO of Lindorff Group (2010-2014), joined Axactor as its new CEO. In July 2014, Rangnes had orchestrated the sale of Oslo-based Lindorff, one of the biggest and fastest growing debt collection companies in the world, with 2,750 employees in 11 countries, to private equity firm Nordic Capital. Prior to Lindorff, Rangnes served as CEO of EDB Business Partner ASA, now EVRY ASA (2003-2010). His previously served at various positions within the IBM Group, including being Country Manager Norway and serving as member of IBM Nordic’s executive and top management teams.

Historically, prior to Rangnes taking over as CEO, Axactor’s principal business activities were related to mineral exploration and exploitation. As of January 2016, the mineral activity has been fully divested and the company is now only operating in the collection industry. The company was previously known as Nickel Mountain Group AB (OSE:NMG) (OSE:NMGO), and changed its name to Axactor on January 2016.

In February 2016 Axactor raised NOK 106.1 million ($12.7 million) through a private placement, to fund acquisitions of non-performing loan portfolios and platforms, as well as for general corporate purposes.

“The acquisition of IKAS is in line with our strategy to establish credit management operations in growth markets through acquisitions of well managed companies positioned for capturing market opportunities,” said Rangnes.

IKAS is one of the fastest growing companies in the debt collection industry in Norway. The company has been working for several years on innovation and product development, and currently delivers market leading and modern payment solutions for selected industries. The company was established in 1988 and currently has about 70 employees with offices in five Norwegian cities. Over the last five years it doubled its turnover to NOK 91 million, with an operating margin of approximately 30% in 2015. IKAS was founded in 1988 by Kjell Reiersrud.

“Axactor’s ownership allows us to accelerate the development of the company,” said Frode Reiersrud, general manager of IKAS.

Axactor is a newly established company in the market for credit management services. The company has a Nordic base and an ambitious pan-European growth strategy, which targets the market for non-performing loans in Europe. The company said it is currently exploring several growth markets in other European countries. Axactor, previously based in Stockholm, Sweden, is currently based in Oslo, Norway.

Axactor is addressing a large non-performing loan (NPL) market in Europe. The market is estimated at around €1.5 trillion and with a solid growth rate. The main growth factors are partly driven by regulatory changes, sales of non-performing loans and an accelerating trend of outsourcing debt collection to specialized companies.

There is also a consolidation trend in the debt collection/debt purchase industry. Axactor’s main focus in the credit management value chain will be amicable and legal collection, surveillance and acquisition of NPLs.

As a first step in its Pan-European growth strategy, Axactor acquired ALD Abogados in December 2015. ALD Abogados is a leading debt collection company in Madrid with 120 employees, and has in addition a call center with 80 employees in Valladolid, Spain.

Since January 2016, Axactor has acquired portfolios of non-performing loans in Spain with total outstanding debt of NOK 4.9 billion. Axactor currently has approximately 200 employees in Spain.

Photo: Endre Rangnes, CEO of Axactor.

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