Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Have Partnerships & Acquisitions Become a Necessary Evil in CE?

Looking back at all of the companies that have either partnered up or followed through with a complete acquisition, I'm wondering if this activity has become a sort of necessary evil in the consumer electronics space. Do these companies need to join forces in order to remain competitive within the market, or are the moves made strategically in an effort to boost profits?

The latest company to join the rumour mill of acquisitions and partnerships is D&M Holdings, the parent company to brands like Denon, Marantz, and Boston Acoustics. The company is reportedly auctioning off a major stake, and several sources cite that current bidders include mammoth retailer Best Buy (yes, you read that correctly), Merrill Lynch, the Advantage Partners LLP, and, most recently, a joint bid with Kenwood and Bain Capital. The press section of the D&M Holdings Website states that “recent press reports concerning the potential sale of D&M shares is not based on any information provided by the company.” When contacted, D&M Canada said that the company had “no official announcement to make at this time.”

Although that information is merely based on speculation, Blockbuster's recent bid for Circuit City is indeed true. As mentioned in a previous post, this move was in an obvious attempt to revitalize a business that has been experiencing tremendous pressures as of late. Blockbuster likely hopes that, in combining its DVD rental business with Circuit City's consumer electronics hardware offering, it can become a sort of one-stop-shop for consumers.

Back to the manufacturing side, it appears that many partnerships are forged in an effort to remain profitable rather than gain additional profitability. Take the flat-panel arena, for example, where companies like Toshiba and Pioneer have partnered with Sharp on LCD TV initiatives (with both companies also providing specific technologies and expertise to Sharp). Pioneer also recently announced it would outsource plasma panel manufacturing to Panasonic, while Philips has inked a similar deal with Japanese manufacturer Funai. The reasons for these partnerships are obvious: reduced costs, simplified manufacturing process, and the need to keep up with the increasingly competitive market. Flat-panel pricing has come down tremendously over the years, while new entrants are being added to the foray by the dozens. Will we reach a point where all TV brands eventually lead back to just one or two factories?

In the audio manufacturing arena, Canadian manufacturer API, maker of the Mirage, Energy, and Athena Technologies brands, was acquired by Klipsch Audio Technologies back in 2006. In many cases (like this one) the acquired brand or company remains an independently-operated entity. Was the acquisition made to strengthen the brand? After all, API is one of the biggest speaker manufacturers in the world!

The list goes on and on. In some cases, partnerships are indeed made to strengthen a company/brand by utilizing resources that the other can provide. In others, it's to "take out" the competition. But it appears that, as of late, we're seeing more and more traditionally considered "competitors" looking at one another and saying "I need you and you need me. We can't do this alone."

Whatever the reason, is the competitive nature of this industry in danger?

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's always about money, maximizing capital how else can you explain outsourcing which this is on par. Another company can produce said product cheaper than you, those companies who invested first (Sharp) in this case (LCD) are obviously reaping the benefits of economies of scale.
Not surprising with Toshiba of late. I personally don't have an issue with a company buying another one as long as changes don't affect the direction of the company and don't rebrand everything.