Swedish investments in Belgian Mercedes dealers
20% market share
Today, Anders Hedin has a Mercedes-Benz market share of 20% in Belgium, making the group the biggest Mercedes-Benz dealer in Belgium.
The adventure started with the acquisition of seven importer-owned dealerships in the province of East-Flanders (Ghent Port, Sint-Martens-Latem, Eeklo, Aalst, Ninove en Zottegem). According to its Annual Report, they cost Anders Hedin 37,6 million euro, including real estate.
Not much later, Anders Hedin bought five dealerships off Antwerp Mercedes dealer Andries (Viesdonk) in Kontich, Lier, Berlaar, Brasschaat, and Kapellen. Excluding real estate, it cost them 21,4 million euros.
The acquisition of two Jacobs dealerships in Sint-Niklaas and Lokeren last year is still awaiting approval of the Belgian competition authority.
More to come
The whole Anders Hedin group saw its revenue grow by 66% to 2 billion euro. And the buying spree is not over yet.
Negotiations to buy Vertommen in Boortmeerbeek are ongoing. The conclusion of those negotiations is pending until the approval of the Jacobs deal, says the director of Anders Hedin’s Belgian operations, Henrik Lessel.
Anders Hedin is said to be interested in the importer-owned dealership in Antwerp as well. “It makes sense, that’s all I can say,” Lessel reacts.
The low profitability and its many small family businesses, make the Belgian market interesting for wealthy foreign investors.
“Belgium is an unconsolidated market with a lot of opportunities,” says Lessel. “Many dealerships work in an old-fashioned way. They have not evolved with the possibilities of big groups. They have also invested less, which makes their acquisition price more affordable.”
The group retails 31 brands in Sweden and Norway, but it is not clear if Hedin also wants to invest in other brands on the Belgian market. “Our CEO has a big heart for Mercedes. He started his company with the brand, and it is still the backbone, but to become this big, you have to take other brands on board,” says Wessel.
Invest in profitability
Anders Hedin’s current Belgian portfolio is not profitable yet, but things are bound to change. Especially the former importer-owned dealerships need work. ‘Those had a cumbersome organization, far away from clients. Not enough was invested and personnel was understimulated,” says Lessel.
Hedin wants to improve profitability by investing in technology and telematics. With Mercedes’ Fleetboard management system, dealerships can remotely monitor the health of cars. When a problem occurs, the dealership can contact the client, order parts, and think of solutions. The system demands a lot of investments but also has a lot of potential.
Foreign invasion at Mercedes
Anders Hedin is not the only foreign group to invest in Mercedes in Belgium. In April, France’s biggest Mercedes retailer RCM bought five Walloon Piret dealerships. The French Car Avenue group, with a turnover of a billion euro, bought three Mercedes dealerships from the Liège Kalsheuer group.
Van Mossel owner, Eric Berkhof, confirms he is in talks with several Mercedes-Benz dealerships but declines to give names. According to information the Belgian business newspaper ‘De Tijd’ obtained, they are the Turnhout CAC dealership and the Limburg Claes Group. Both deny.
Insiders say that a number of dealerships are for sale. But the Benelux Mercedes importer, which has to approve changes in the network, reacts calmly: “At the moment, we have no movements in the dealer network to report.”