Samsung Nets Harman in $8B Deal

Consumer electronics giant Samsung has agreed to acquire Harman in an $8 Billion deal.
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STAMFORD, CT—Consumer electronics giant Samsung has agreed to acquire Harman in an $8 Billion deal. The focal point of the acquisition is Harman’s presence in car audio and the emerging “connected car” technology sector, but the agreement includes its considerable footprint in pro audio as well. Harman owns the brands AKG, BSS, Soundcraft, Lexicon, JBL Professional, Studer, dbx, DigiTech and Crown.

Samsung plans to retain Harman’s work force, headquarters and facilities, as well as all of its consumer and professional audio brands. Likewise, the various entities will continue to operate under existing Harman chairman, president and CEO, Dinesh Paliwal, and the current management team.

The acquisition, expected to close in mid-2017, is intended to accelerate Samsung’s move into the connected car marketplace, which it categorizes as a “strategic priority” in the wake of establishing an Automotive Electronics Business Team in December, 2015.

Currently, Harman’s technologies are present in more than 30 million vehicles equipped with its connected car and audio systems, including embedded infotainment, telematics, connected safety and security. Roughly 65 percent of Harman’s $7.0 billion of reported sales during the 12 months ended September 30, 2016 are automotive-related; comparatively, the whole of its professional solutions division, which includes the pro audio brands as well as others like video switching/control device manufacturer AMX and lighting company Martin, contributed 14 percent of Harman’s revenues over the last year.

Samsung’s offer of $112 a share marks the end of a rollercoaster ride for Harman stock over the last few years. After riding out the recession, which saw it dip under $40 at points in 2011, the stock took off in early 2013, eventually hitting $145 in early 2015 before dropping amidst slow earnings. As a result, Samsung’s offer pays a notable premium on the $88 price shares were trading at on the last day prior to the announcement.

While Wall Street’s reaction to the news was swift—Harman shares rose to $110 on the day of the announcement—the pro audio industry’s take on the news was mixed. Given the announcement’s focus on the connected car business, some industry observers question whether the professional solutions division might eventually be sold off, but others suggest Samsung’s visual professional solutions could integrate well into Harman’s large-scale Enterprise A/V offerings, complementing the latter’s lighting, sound, networking and control offerings to create strong synergy between the brands.

That view is certainly what David Glaubke, PR director for Harman Professional Solutions extolled to PSN’s UK sister magazine, Installation, noting, “Samsung has made it quite clear that throughout the agreement process and the closing and beyond that it’s Samsung’s intent in maintaining the structure, the management and the brands of Harman – so I don’t expect this to change.” Likewise, he saw the new parent company as a boon for Harman Pro, noting, “Especially in display, Samsung brings to bear a lot of compelling technology that we can also fold into our product suite and our brand suite.”