As the Vendor World Turns

I remember when Cellnet was Cellnet the first time around. I haven’t been covering the power industry all that long, but I’ve been around long enough to feel like an old-timer when the subject turns to vendor mergers and acquisitions.

I remember when the “old” Cellnet became part of Schlumberger RMS. I also remember when Schlumberger decided the AMR business was too slow-developing and sold the Cellnet technology to Atos Origin. I remember when private equity firm GTCR Golder Rauner was involved in a management buyout of Cellnet from Atos, and Cellnet became an independent company once again. And pretty much everyone remembers within the last year, if they were paying attention to this sort of thing, when Australian investment firm the Bayard Group acquired Cellnet-along with several other metering-related companies, including Landis+Gyr and Hunt Technologies.

All of the above took place over the course of about seven years.

And that’s just one merger and acquisition saga I’ve witnessed. There was outage management system provider CES International being acquired by SPL WorldGroup, and then SPL WorldGroup recently getting acquired by Oracle. Itron acquired the meter manufacturing part of Schlumberger some years back, and recently acquired Actaris (the company Schlumberger sold the Cellnet technology to back in 2003). I won’t even try to explain how Elster came to be what it is today.

If your utility has invested in utility automation technology at all over the course of the last decade, you’ve likely been affected by some of this M&A among vendors. If you haven’t been affected by past M&A activity, get ready because it’s not likely to slow down.

The authors of our cover story, “How Vendor Mergers are Shaping T&D” are uniquely qualified to comment on vendor M&As and how they affect you. I’ve known one of the co-authors, Hahn Tram, since I started covering this industry, and I have a small collection of Hahn Tram business cards with different company names on them. It’s kind of like collecting baseball cards in the era of free agency.

If memory serves, when I first met Hahn, he was with Convergent Group, which, along with seemingly every other company operating in the power industry around the turn of this century, was eventually acquired by Schlumberger. After a couple of years, a group of Convergent Group/Schlumberger employees, with the help of Osmose Holdings, broke from Schlumberger and formed “Enspiria Solutions, an Osmose Company.” (Osmose also acquired a company called Coherent Networks back in 2002, which, incidentally, was a company I always used to confuse with Convergent Group. Now that they’re all under one banner, they’re easier to keep straight.)

The cover story Hahn wrote with his colleagues at Schlumber…. Converge … I mean, Enspiria, is particularly interesting to me, simply because, for whatever reason, I find all the M&A activity in the power industry endlessly fascinating and entertaining. It should also interest you, the reader, because it provides a very good primer on what you need to consider as your OMS provider merges with the provider of your back-office financial system.

I’ll continue to hang onto old business cards as a retirement investment. A rare Hahn Tram Schlumberger card goes for a small fortune on the electric power trade show circuit these days.

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