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AudioNova acquisition completed, major short-term headwinds to persist

  • 24 Oct 16

Sonova completed the acquisition of Europe’s second largest hearing aids retailer AudioNova (Amplifon remains the largest retailer in the hearing aids industry), earlier than expected, in September 2016. Sonova acquired AudioNova from the investment company HAL Trust, pipping the likes of WDM (William Demant) and Sivantos. The acquisition brings >1,300 retail stores spread across eight European countries, further fortifying Sonova’s hold on its distribution channel (as a reminder, with >2,000 retail stores Sonova already has the largest retail network amongst the big six hearing aids manufacturers), a crucial requirement in the prevailing pricing pressure environment (William Demant guides for 1-2% ASP decline annually). With AudioNova in the kitty, the share of the retail is set to increase to c.38% (vs 25% for WDM) of total sales (c.15% volume) from the earlier 27% (c.10% volume). From a financial point of view, the deal is expected to be earnings accretive in the first financial year after closure. As a consequence of the acquisition, Sonova has suspended the ongoing CHF500m share buy-back programme (of which CHF229m had been completed to March 2016). Furthermore, for FY 16/17, management sees revenue growth of 4-6% at LC and an EBITA increase of 3-7% at LC (excluding contribution from AudioNova acquisition), below its medium-term target of 5-7% sales (includes c.1% growth from acquisitions) and 7-11% EBITA growth. Separately, in its investors day held recently, Sonova provided an update on its strategy for the next five years wherein the focus continues to be on vertical integration primarily through retail network integration and expansion (to be further supported by continued bolt-on acquisitions), and strengthening its e-solutions across the hearing aids related services spectrum. As a result, management expects retail sales to outpace wholesale (+6-8% compared to +3-5%) in the mid-term. The company also unveiled new products across segments and, more importantly, confirmed that it will be launching a made-for-all (MFA) 2.4GHz based platform in 2017, an urgently needed push in our view.