Just seven years ago Altron was making almost R25bn in annual revenue, but costly blunders have reduced the group – led by the enterprising Venter family – to a shadow of its former self. Now there is hope that a radical restructuring, including of its ma
for a time it looked like Allied Electronics (Altron) could do no wrong. Founded by Bill Venter as an electronic component maker in 1965, the group grew into a powerhouse on the JSE that employs over 12 000 people and operates on three continents.
Over the years, Altron’s three major subsidiaries – software group Bytes Technology Group, ICT firm Allied Technologies (Altech) and its energy specialist Powertech – had grown into sizable operations, with Bytes and Altech for a time even being listed companies in their own right.
Although Altron is a listed company, the Venters’ hold over it is close to absolute. Bill (81) stepped down as its chief executive in 2001 and remains the group’s non-executive chairman, while his son Robbie is Altron’s CEO. Craig, Bill’s other son, served as CEO of Altech they were about to embark on a new growth streak, the Venters’ golden touch deserted them and they ended up making some costly blunders (see sidebar).
The end result is that Altron is going through a tricky and radical restructuring that will eventually also leave the Venters a step removed from the group.
Altron’s new structure sees it becoming a very different organisation. Where it was once a broad-ranging technology group that made everything from car batteries to software, it will eventually be made up of Altron Telecommunications, Multimedia and Information Technology (TMT), which includes Altech and Bytes, and some remaining elements of its power division.
The plan also includes moving away from a family-managed business to an independent management structure. However, it remains unclear when this process will be finalised and when Robbie Venter will step down as CEO, and when, or if, Bill Venter plans to vacate his position as chairman. The family will retain its majority holding in the group.
Altron is going through a tricky and radical restructuring that will eventually also leave the Venters a step removed from the group.