Inside the deal: what NEP’s Bexel acquisition means for the live sports production industry

NEP Group made a major splash last week by acquiring Bexel Global Broadcast Solutions from the Vitec Group. The latest in a long run of NEP acquisitions in recent years combines two of the most established vendors in live sports remote production. The $35 million deal signals the Vitec Group’s exit from the U.S. broadcast-services market in an effort to improve its overall margins, while significantly expanding NEP’s flypack inventory, as well as its fiber-system–integration and rental-equipment businesses in North America.

“We want to become the worldwide broadcast-services leader, and we think this is a big step in that direction,” says Mike Werteen, co-president, U.S. Mobile Units, NEP, adding, “This is the first [acquisition] where every single piece of feedback that we’ve gotten from clients, as well as both the Bexel and the NEP teams, has been positive. We are bringing together best engineering- and fiber-support teams in the industry, so it’s a no-brainer for us.”

Bexel VP, Global Sales, Craig Schiller adds, “NEP has felt like family for many years. We work on the same shows together, our people work side by side together, and they have been a client of ours for years. [Internally], we felt like it would be a great opportunity for us to land within the NEP group. It ended up working out perfectly. We are really pleased because it’s a fantastic home for us as a company and for all of the Bexel employees.”

For NEP: flypacks, systems integration, equipment resale 

Bexel’s Rental Services & Solutions (RSS) division’s U.S.-based scalable flypack systems bring NEP’s inventory to 34 flypacks, along with a host of other equipment. In addition, the Bexel ESS (Engineered Systems and Solutions) division, which launched in 2012, bolsters NEP’s systems-integration and fiber-solutions businesses. And the acquisition of the Bexel TSS division launches NEP into the broadcast-equipment–sales business, allowing the truck provider to more readily dispose of used equipment following upgrades.

“From an NEP perspective, it’s a great cultural fit between NEP and Bexel in that both companies have similar service-oriented cultures,” says Werteen. “The addition of Bexel adds significant flypack capabilities for us in the U.S., which is something that we’re concentrating on. It strengthens our U.S. fiber capabilities, with the two best fiber providers in the U.S. [combined into] one. We have never had a rental component to our business, and we felt, as the industry is evolving, it’s a capability that we wanted. Frankly, it was a natural fit for us.”

For Bexel: the brand and offices will remain

Bexel will continue to sell specific services under its own brand, providing flypacks, high-frame-rate specialty cameras, HD-camera chains, lenses, EVS servers, and more.

“Part of the attractiveness of this deal was the luster of the Bexel name,” says Werteen. “Until our clients say that we should view it otherwise, we’re proud to have the Bexel brand as part of the NEP Group.”

Bexel will continue to operate out of its existing headquarters in Burbank, CA, and the Bexel Hub facility in Grapevine, TX.

“For us, it’s business as usual,” says Schiller. “Our team is focused on continuing to service everybody that we’ve serviced to date and to continue to provide the engineering and solutions as we’ve done for 35 years.”

According to Werteen, there will be no immediate staffing reductions, but NEP will evaluate various divisions as the two companies are integrated.

“From a staffing standpoint, we’re going to retain as many employees across all the NEP divisions as we can,” he says. “If there are redundancies in any overlapping functions, then that would be a cause for reduction. But we’re more focused right now on adding to our divisions that are either understaffed or poised for growth.”

For Vitec: exiting the U.S. broadcast services business

According to a Vitec statement, the disposal of its U.S. broadcast-services business “represents a further step in the transformation of the Group and supports Vitec’s stated aim of improving operating margins.” The disposal is expected to improve margins and return on capital employed (ROCE) and to be neutral to FY2017 adjusted earnings per share. The net cash proceeds of $32 million will be used to reduce net indebtedness, according to Vitec.

“There was a strategic decision made by the Vitec Group to divest the Bexel business,” says Schiller. “They’ve been a great owner for us for over 25 years, and we’ve been able to accomplish a lot of great things under their leadership.”

In 2016, Bexel generated an adjusted operating loss of $1.9 million on revenue of $64.2 million and operating cash of $5.2 million after capex of $9.6 million and rental-asset disposals of $5.5 million. As of year end 2016, gross assets were $37.6 million. Estimated net assets at completion are $25.0 million. Bexel continued to record an operating loss in first half 2017, with break-even targeted for second half 2017.

“Bexel has over 35 years of leadership in the live-events market, and we are pleased to have secured such a natural home for the business, its employees, and customers,” Stephen Bird, group chief executive, Vitec, said in the company’s announcement. “The disposal makes strategic and financial sense for Vitec as we continue to transform the Group.”

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