AudioNova International BV, Europe’s second-largest hearing aid retailer, is being put up for sale and could garner an offer of around $500 million euros ($559 million), according to a report from Bloomberg Business. Interested potential bidders would likely to include Amplifon (owners of Miracle Ear), William Demant Holding (Oticon/Bernafon/Sonic), Sonova (Phonak/Unitron/AB), and EQT Partners (the owners of Sivantos/Siemens hearing brand).
Owned by the investment company HAL Trust and located in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, AudioNova in 2014 operated 1303 stores (up from 1,272 in 2013) in 12 European countries and employed 2611 full-time workers, according to its website.
Long-time industry market analyst Niels Granholm-Leth of Carnegie Investment Bank in Copenhagen says it is likely that HAL Trust has been weighing this opportunity for some time. “According to our sources,” wrote Leth in a report today, “Sonova and William Demant are currently the key suppliers of hearing aids to AudioNova; Sebotek and IntriCon are minor suppliers. Key suppliers to AudioNova used to be Sivantos and GN ReSound which operate a non-forward-integration strategy; hence, the change of suppliers a couple of years ago could now be viewed as a (clever) preparation for a sale. Sonova and William Demant will of course be interested to defend their unit sales and should be regarded the most obvious buyers of AudioNova. Other potential buyers include Amplifon which may team-up with its strategic partners Sivantos and GN Resound. Bloomberg News is also mentioning EQT private Equity, the owner of Sivantos, as a potential buyer.”
Any sale to a hearing aid manufacturer would signal the continuance of global forward consolidation for the industry. In September, William Demant Holding purchased Audika, the largest dispensing chain in France, after Audika sold its 55 Italian retail hearing centers for 7.1 million euros (US$8.1 million) in April 2015 to hearing aid retail giant Amplifon, which is headquartered in Italy.
AudioNova is the second largest hearing aid retailer in Europe after Amplifon. With sales estimated at about 333 million euros, Granholm-Leth believes AudioNova is probably the fifth or sixth largest distributor in the world. According to its website, AudioNova dates back to 1926 when it started as a humble optic, photographic, and hearing aid corner store in Rotterdam which then expanded to 23 outlets under the guidance of the founder’s son. In 1985, the chain was purchased by Groeneveld Winkelbedrijven (Groeneveld), the owner of 100 optical stores (20 became hearing aid outlets) in the country. AudioNova was incorporated in 2006 after a successful buy-and-build strategy to support international distribution and expansions into Germany, Belgium, France, Denmark, and Italy. It subsequently purchased Minisom in Portugal in 2008 and GEERS Hörakustik in 2010 (expanding into Switzerland, Poland, Russia, and Hungary).