Belgian language service providers (LSPs), ElaN Languages and OneLiner Translations, have announced their merger. The transaction was concluded in June 2020. Revenues for the combined organization total approximately EUR 13m (USD 15m), Johan Noël, Management Team Lead at ElaN, told Slator.
Founded in 1990, ElaN provides translations, multilingual copy editing, and SEO for the private and public sectors. The company changed owners in 2018. OneLiner was founded in 2000 and counts a mix of government and SMEs in its client portfolio.
Noël described the two entities as “very complementary with virtually no overlap in terms of client base.” He said this bolsters their client portfolio and allows both companies to benefit from economies of scale in terms of technology.
On why they opted for the (relatively uncommon) merger rather than an outright acquisition, Noël replied, “The shareholders of both OneLiner and ElaN still see a lot of potential for growth, which is why they never considered a full acquisition, opting for a merger instead.”
The combined company will have a total of about 45 full-time staff. Noël said, “All our professionals are allowed to work from home, in satellite offices, or in our offices in Heusden-Zolder (ElaN HQ) — whatever works for them. OneLiner has been virtual since 2003.”
Noël confirmed that both companies will continue to trade under the names ElaN and OneLiner “at least for the time being.” He explained, “We serve quite different client profiles, and both companies have a very satisfied client base and an excellent reputation in their respective markets — that’s why we don’t want to tamper with our respective successful business models. We will, however, benefit from economies of scale regarding purchasing power and will share complementary resources as well.”
As for the public sector, which figures in both ElaN and OneLiner’s client portfolios, he said that, moving forward, “the government tender market is definitely part of our common growth strategy.”
ElaN and OneLiner will eventually combine their translator databases, according to Noël. However, “We haven’t decided on a single CAT platform yet. We currently use XTM and memoQ. Just like our client base is very different, we largely use different resources.”
ElaN-OneLiner recently acquired a majority stake in Dutch LSP PassworD text fusion, but Noël would neither discuss the percentage stake nor the amount paid. He said PassworD employs eight staff and specializes in asset management, environment, and engineering, among other domains.
Asked about the rationale behind the investment, he said, “We looked for a Dutch pied-à-terre and, with the help of a Dutch matchmaker, PassworD proved to be perfect for us. The Dutch market is interesting since it’s still fragmented and less mature than the highly competitive and consolidated Belgian market with its long, multilingual history.”
He added, “Some Dutch agencies do not have the scale to cope with fast technological changes and Dutch clients are shopping for better prices abroad.”
Belgian Deal Wins
At present, ElaN-OneLiner will continue to be on the lookout for “all possible [acquisition] targets that have an excellent reputation and are looking for a truly pragmatic partner.”
As for the impact of Covid-19 on the Benelux market, Noël said, “Both OneLiner and ElaN seem to be quite crisis-resistant — we have yet to see a negative impact on our 2020 turnover compared to 2019. It’s possibly also due to the large volume of successive crisis communication that needed / needs to be translated in our bilingual national market.”
Moreover, OneLiner, which has traditionally been a big supplier to the Belgian government, experienced “no impact” on this front, Noël said and, in fact, “recently won a large tender for the Belgian federal authorities (EUR 4.4m) and a big tender for the Brussels authorities (EUR 1.2m), as well as for a Flemish research organization (EUR 1m), and continues to rapidly win market shares in legal and financial professions, sports, the nuclear industry, and catalog-intensive companies.”