Mercurius was incorporated in 1991 in Sofia, Bulgaria and now ranks second in the country’s office supply retail market, holding an 18% market share. In contrast to its competitors, Mercurius is a lean company, operating without retail stores and instead depending on website and catalogue purchases, primarily from corporations and government agencies.

The Need

The company needed financing to improve its countrywide distribution infrastructure and to widen its range of quality products while maintaining its standards for superior customer service.

The Investment

In 2002, SEAF provided an equity investment in return for 47.8% of the company through SEAF’s Trans Balkan Bulgaria Fund. In addition to financial investment, SEAF provided business assistance by facilitating discussion between Mercurius and Corporate Express. More specifically, the two enterprises discussed the new purchasing model and logistics services.

The Impact

Shortly after SEAF’s investment, sales were strong for Mercurius during 2003. The company exceeded its sales target by 2 percent and achieved 46 percent growth over the previous year. In the same period, Mercurius almost tripled its sales to corporate clients and almost doubled its turnover for sales to advertising agencies.

In addition, the company was proactive in aggressively improving sales management and information technology systems, relying on SEAF’s financing to meet these goals. For example, in early 2004, the company purchased a new ERP software and the staff was trained so that they could implement the system.

Unfortunately, the global financial crisis in the late 2000s had a negative impact on the office supply industry in Bulgaria, which experienced a reduction in government purchases and greater price-sensitivity among clients. Nevertheless, due to its strong financial and managerial foundation, Mercurius fared better than its competitors. In 2009, a year after the global financial crisis began, Mercurius continued to experience steady growth, nearly doubling its workforce from 93 employees in 2002 to 160 employees in 2009 and increasing its market share by 9%.

A Completed Exit

As a result of the company’s online structure and its financial stability despite the volatility in the industry, Mercurius was well positioned to take advantage of the post-crisis economic recovery. In November 2011, SEAF made a successful exit from the company.