In an exclusive interview with Nearshore Americas, Webhelp Group Managing Director Sandrine Asseraf and OneLink Co-founder and CEO Eduardo Salazar discussed the drivers behind the acquisition and why it made sense for both parties.
“There’s a very strong cultural synergy between our two companies,” explained Asseraf. “That’s really what made this deal possible – we’re both people first companies.”
Webhelp Adds Agents
Once relevant regulatory authorities have approved the move, the ownership of OneLink, which counts some 14,000 employees across its locations in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Colombia and Brazil, will transfer over to Paris-headquartered Webhelp. With the addition of the smattering of current Webhelp employees in Peru and Mexico, the region’s entire headcount will swell to 20,000 while its worldwide numbers will move above 90,000. Webhelp will remain some 60,000 agents below competitor Sitel, which recently acquired its domestic rival, Sykes.
Combined sales are estimated to hit US$2.4 billion. The terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
Latin American expansion was a primary strategic aim for Webhelp, Asseraf explained, and a major reason behind the company’s decision to make its fourteenth acquisition in five years.
“The deal made a lot of sense from a geographical standpoint. Webhelp and OneLink compliment each other well geographically and OneLink will support Webhelp to develop its global presence at scale by utilizing its strengths for the US market,” she said. “We currently operate in Latin American through our sites in Mexico and Peru, but this acquisition will significantly accelerate our growth in Latin America, and help solidify our presence in the US market.”
OneLink has specialized in serving the US market since its founding in 2013. Salazar points to the experience the company has across The Americas as a valuable resource Webhelp can now tap to develop its operations in one of the few markets it did not already have considerable strength.
“The Latin American market has been our backyard since we started almost eight years ago,” he explained. “Webhelp had a nascent position Latin America and can now bet on the OneLink to be its team in The Americas. I think this was a very compelling case for our business to build on the growth that we have achieved,” he said.
The deal also came at the right time for OneLink, which was looking for continued evolution after a pandemic period that has seen the company grow an estimated 25%.
“We had a decision to make in terms of how we should grow our business going forward considering the consolidation of the industry and globalization of our clients’ business,” he said. “It was important to join forces with a company that could allow us to become a global player in order to extend our services and provide greater opportunities to our workforce.”
The needs of the company’s largest investor, One Equity Partners, a middle market private equity firm, were also considered in the agreement. “One Equity Partners has been invested in us since 2017. Like any other fund, they needed to divest and move forward. Everything aligned perfectly,” said Salazar.
Outsourcing Industry Shifts
The pandemic sped the move to digital and new economy verticals that digitally-savvy BPOs could service proliferated. In 2020, clients from e-commerce, fintech, emerging tech and gaming represented almost 40% of OneLink’s client base, with those clients “growing exponentially” in comparison to those from traditional verticals. OneLink’s name as an innovator in digitally-enabled customer services, with best-in-class tech stacks and infrastructure, was an attractive attribute that Webhelp was keen to harness, Asseraf explained.
“There are several hyper-growth verticals where the partnership with OneLink will help us accelerate. OneLink has been very strong in expanding in these hyper-growth tech sectors in the US, particularly in fintech, and we want to continue that together. OneLink’s US clients and partners will be amazing additions to the group’s client base and will provide great cross-selling opportunities,” she said.
The clamour from new economy verticals has been mirrored by the behest from for clients to have a single source of contact for greater ease in dealing with large programs. Rather than hire several vendors, there is a strengthening preference for a one-stop-shop solution. “This is where the client-service journey is going,” said Salazar.
The process of integration will only begin once the transaction is complete. For now, peace of mind for employees and clients employee and client peace of mind is key. “Our two priorities will be to protect our people and our clients,” said Asseraf.
“We are committed to bringing more quality jobs into the region and with the wider reach of Webhelp as partner that acceleration of jobs into the region will be exponentially higher,” Salazar added.