Conference Rental Buys Challenge Partners, Enters Europe

Consolidation in the the language services industry is going niche. On February 22, 2017, US-based interpretation equipment and rental provider Conference Rental announced the acquisition of Belgian competitor Challenge Partners.

Asked about the purchase price, Conference Rental CEO Fardad Zabetian told Slator that, while he cannot disclose financial details, the deal involved a “very attractive package including the right compensation in cash and equity.” He said the transaction included a “makeover of Challenge Partners’ inventory.”

Prior to the acquisition, Zabetian was the sole owner of Conference Rental. Challenge Partners was fully owned by its General Manager Santiago de Murga.

Zabetian said Conference Rental’s numbers for 2016 are not in yet, but disclosed that revenues for 2015 were USD 2.7m.

Challenge Partners, meanwhile, generated sales of about EUR 3m (USD 3.16m) in 2016. Conference Rental’s total headcount is a lean seven full-time staff, while Challenge Partners brings 17 employees to the combined company.

We are also happy to serve as a backup to other rental and staging companies out there—Fardad Zabetian, CEO of Conference Rental

The transaction was financed entirely from Conference Rental’s own funds and, Zabetian said, there were no banks, advisors, or lawyers involved in structuring and closing the deal.

Fardad Zabetian

Zabetian told Slator that Challenge Partners is rebranding to Conference Rental and highlighted that the integration of the two companies is “in full swing and should be completed within the next six months.”

Santiago de Murga will stay on and lead the combined firm’s European operations.

The two companies’ businesses are complementary both in terms of geography as well as market focus. Conference Rental’s business was, so far, limited to the US market and geared toward large-scale events such as G20 summits, IMF, World Bank, or International Trade Union meetings and other high-profile gatherings. Challenge Partners, meanwhile, generates the bulk of its business from medium-sized conferences in Europe.

According to Zabetian, Conference Rental owns all its equipment and runs “strategically located” warehouses. To this, Challenge Partners adds a fleet of vans and large warehouses in Brussels, Paris, and Marseilles where the company has offices.

Challenge Partners does an average of 25 events per week—Fardad Zabetian

Zabetian added that Conference Rental also relies heavily on sister company Media Vision’s resources and technology. In fact, Zabetian is also Founder and CEO of Media Vision, which offers a broad portfolio of conference audio and video solutions.

He pointed out that, while they continue to focus on their core business with international organizations and trade unions, he sees growth as coming primarily from the private sector.

Asked about potentially disruptive technological developments, such as the bring-your-own-device solutions offered by companies like Interprefy, Zabetian remained vague. He said he knows “there is no stopping technology,” that the company takes a “proactive stance” toward threats, and said they want to be ready for the opportunities brought on by potential disruption.

Finally, the CEO said he is open to future acquisitions and to “entertaining plans and engaging in talks with potential partners.”