October 29, 2014

Wednesday, October 29, 2014
By Yasmine Yahya Assistant Money Editor

DYMON Asia Private Equity, a Singapore investment firm that has been buying stakes in promising small and medium-sized enterprises, has made its fourth deal, this time involving a vending machine company.

Dymon Asia Private Equity said in a statement that it has acquired a majority of the shares in Atlas Vending, the first time it has taken a majority stake in a firm. The acquisition includes all the shares held by Atlas’ founding Tan family.

Atlas, set up in 1980, has grown to become the largest independent vending machine owner and operator in the region, managing more than 5,000 machines in Singapore and Malaysia.

It has constantly kept its vending machine offerings fresh, in line with changing trends in the market, and is developing technology to accept cashless payments, such as ez-link cards.

Founder Tan Ju Soon, 63, who has been running the company from day one, said the decision to sell his shares did not come easily.

“Vending machines, and Atlas, have been my passion for my whole life. I could have carried on for maybe two or three years, but beyond that the company would have needed new leadership,” he said.

“Dymon Asia Private Equity approached me a year ago, and I was initially hesitant. However, after 12 months of intense interaction, I’m now convinced that they have the dynamism, capability and resources to take good care of the company, its customers and employees.”

Mr Tan will stay on as an adviser during its transition period, with Atlas director Yap Seng Kiong taking over as chief executive immediately.

Dymon Asia Private Equity founding partner Gerald Chiu said the firm intends to invest heavily in Atlas by increasing the number of machines and deploying technology.

“Atlas is already a leader in productivity locally, where one staff member can service 50 machines,” he said. “However, in Japan, the market leader achieves a ratio of more than 100 machines per staff.”

Japanese firms use telemetry technology, which enables vending machines to transmit data to their operators in almost real time of the type and quantity of items being consumed.

This allows staff to plan their replenishment runs more efficiently, Mr Chiu noted. “We want to make this a reality here.”

For Dymon Asia Private Equity, which has invested in SMEs in sectors as varied as childhood education and manufacturing, Atlas represents a move into the broader food & beverage and consumer sector.

“This sector has strong potential in the region, with favourable demographics and rising incomes,” said Mr Chiu.

“We have developed a clear plan with Atlas’ management to innovate and leverage on technology in areas such as cashless payments and telemetry to improve the replenishment of machines. These initiatives will help improve both sales and productivity.”

Such innovations can then be rolled out elsewhere in the region where there is plenty of growth, he added.

Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

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