Germany’s leading web and catalog retailer bids to acquire all of a French peer

Otto Group has owned a 51% stake in French direct marketer Group 3SI since 1981.

Mark Brohan

Otto Group, the second biggest online retailer behind Amazon.com in Internet Retailer’s 2013 Europe 500, has a steady appetite for expansion through acquisition.

Otto, which owns and operates about 100 direct marketing and e-commerce brands across Europe and certain other global markets, is making a bid to fully acquire the e-commerce assets of Group 3SI, one of the biggest catalog and online retailing companies in France.

Otto, which has owned a 51% stake in Group 3SI, No. 12 in the Europe 500, since 1981, isn’t releasing many details, including the price of its bid. But Otto is offering the deal to acquire a big e-commerce operation that’s investing heavily in the French online retailing market, which Paris retail trade association FEVAD estimates grew 19.2% to about $58.53 billion in 2012 from $48.90 billion in 2011.

“3SI started an in-depth transformation process four years ago to meet the challenges of e-commerce, “ Otto says. “Over 100 million euros have been invested to modernize their logistics and information technology infrastructure.“

Otto, which generated total e-commerce sales of $7.53 billion in 2012, is also looking to acquire 3SI units that provide  e-commerce technology development and direct marketing services to other retailers. Those subsidiaries include Mondial Relay, a fulfillment and distibutions company; Mezzo, a customer contact vendor;  Taylormail, a direct mail and e-mail marketing company; and Cité Numérique, a digital content provider. Overall 3SI provides e-commerce services to 3,000 web merchants and companies throughout France and Europe, Otto says.

“Otto Group wants to fully acquire the Group 3SI 's e-commerce and services businesses,“ Otto says. “The offer would enable closer cross-selling cooperation with our other companies.“

With 2012 web sales that reached reached $1.60 billion, Group 3SI says over 70%—about $1.12 billion—of all of its e-commerce revenue is generated in France. The company’s main French e-commerce site, 3Suisses.fr, sells women’s apparel and accessories, home furnishings and other related products.

Group 3SI has deep roots as French direct marketing firm. The company was launched in 1932 by theToulemonde-Destombes family, which also owned a weaving and apparel manufacturing operation.

A successful bid by Otto to purchase Group 3SI’s  e-commerce operations would be Otto’s second major acquisition in under a year.  In December, Otto also acquired the assets of Neckermann Gruppe, once one of the biggest mail order and online retailers in Germany.





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