UPDATE: Ricoh says the US$1.6 billion acquisition should have minimal impact on its IT channel partners

Japanese printer maker Ricoh plans to buy Ikon Office Solutions, a North American distributor of printing and copying equipment, in a deal worth US$1.6 billion, the companies announced Wednesday.

Ricoh said the deal would allow it to provide enterprises with a more complete line of printer and copy equipment. It also hopes the deal will help expand its reach to new geographies. Just under half of Ricoh’s business comes from Japan, while Ikon operates primarily in the U.S. but also sells to Canada and Europe.

Ikon, which integrates copiers and printers with document management software from the likes of Captaris and eCopy, will operate as a subsidiary of Ricoh. In addition to the hardware and software products, Ikon also sells managed and professional services.

The Ikon acquisition should have minimal impact on Ricoh’s dealer and IT channel partners says Russell Marchetta, manager of corporate and public relations with Ricoh.

He notes Ricoh and Ikon have been partners for more than 20 years and they’ve always considered Ikon a separate distribution channel within their organization, in addition to the independent dealers and their direct business.

The Ikon business will serve to shore-up Ricoh’s business in the large equipment sales and leasing area, focusing on Fortune 500 and Fortune 100 accounts.

“The IT channel for us is more our standalone and network printers and our low-volume MFPs, that’s where we’re selling through the IT channel,” said Marchetta.

The boards of both companies have approved the deal, which is subject to regulatory approvals in the U.S., Canada and Europe. It must also win approval from Ikon shareholders. Ricoh expects the transaction to close in the fourth quarter, after which Ikon will continue to operate out of its Pennsylvania headquarters.

The office equipment market has been going through a wave of consolidation. Last year, Xerox bought Global Imaging Systems for $1.5 billion, and Konica Minolta earlier this year bought the U.S. subsidiary of Danka Business Systems for $240 million.

Ricoh has been expanding heavily in the Canadian market. Anders Bygden, manager, printing solutions with Ricoh Canada, told CDN in May that Ricoh’s dealer community has been growing strongly in Canada, as has Ricoh itself, expanding from 700 to 900 employees over the last year to meet market demand.

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