The pool industry closed the books on 2013 with two more acquisitions: S.R. Smith snapped up Fiberstars and Latham International brought Plastimayd into its fold.
These moves follow a string of other industry purchases, including Leslie’s Poolmart’s acquisition of online retailer Pool Supply World; Paramount Pool and Spa Systems’ purchase of Trident Ultraviolet Corp.; and KIK procuring BioLab from Chemtura Corp.
Manuel Perez de la Mesa isn’t about to call it a trend. “I wouldn’t ascribe any significant meaning to it,” said the CEO of Covington, La.-based PoolCorp. And he refutes the notion that this recent spate is any indication the industry is going through some kind of maturation process.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s business as usual. Still, it seems 2013 saw quite a few acquisitions. Here are two of the latest:
Latham expands vinyl liner division
Latham International is making further aftermarket inroads with the acquisition of Plastimayd, LLC. With the purchase, the Latham, N.Y.-based manufacturer is adding to a portfolio that includes Coverstar, Performance Pool Products and Oasis.
“While new-pool construction remains soft around the country with the lingering effects of the recession, having greater reach into the aftermarket is attractive to us,” Latham CEO Mark Laven said.
About half the liners Latham sells today are for new inground pools, whereas a higher percentage of Plastimayd’s products are sold as replacement liners, Laven said. Latham also gets VynAll liners and CoverLogix safety covers as part of the deal (Plastimayd acquired VynAll in 2007).
Plastimayd and VynAll are strong brands, and the fact that they came as a pair sweetened the pot for Latham.
“We would have been happy to add either company on its own,” Laven said, “but once they joined forces, the opportunity to buy a combined business with two well-regarded brands was very attractive to us.”
Plastimayd’s manufacturing facilities in Oregon, New Hampshire and Louisiana now join Latham’s 21 North American plants, five of which produce liners. Laven couldn’t estimate Latham’s current share of the vinyl market, though the segment offers room for growth. “There’s still plenty of competition out there,” he said.
The purchase was closed Dec. 12; terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
This marks Latham’s fourth acquisition since emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company, whose majority shareholder is Greenwich, Conn.-based private equity firm Littlejohn & Co., purchased Royal Fiberglass Pools in 2012, following similar acquisitions in 2010 and 2011.
As Latham reaches deeper into the liner market, another industry player is exploring new segments with an eye toward international growth.
S.R. Smith acquires fiberoptic firm
S.R. Smith, the Canby, Ore. manufacturer originally known for its diving boards and slides, has made key acquisitions to help it reach into different product categories and a new market overseas.
In December, the company finalized the purchase of fiberoptic light producer Fiberstars. In November, S.R. Smith bought Anti Wave Australia, a competitive swim equipment maker in Ipswich, Queensland.
This is the third acquisition since S.R. Smith President/CEO Rich Laitta took the helm some seven years ago. In 2009, the firm bought pool-lift producer RehaMed.
There may be more acquisitions to come, said Margaret McGrath, vice president of marketing. “We are certainly not standing still,” she said. The purchase of Fiberstars was a natural fit for S.R. Smith, she added. “Lighting is a growing segment of the pool equipment market, and we’re well established in the residential space for deck equipment. This is just a very nice complement to our current deck equipment products.”
For its part, Fiberstar’s parent, Energy Focus, decided to sell the pool fiberoptic producer so it could focus on the energy service sector, said Steve Gasperson, president of Fiberstars prior to the sale. “They were going in other directions,” he said. “S.R. Smith is going to make a substantial investment in our business. They’re buying it to grow it. That’s a great thing.”
For now, Fiberstars will remain in its Pleasanton, Calif. headquarters and retain its 15 full-time staffers, Gasperson said. Added McGrath, “We are in the process of looking at the companies and figuring out how we are going to bring them together.”
Gasperson will remain with S.R. Smith to assist in business/product development. He’s working with the new parent company during the transition, including training its sales force, which will assume work formerly done by independent contractors.
Fiberstars customers can continue to call the same phone numbers for support or order-placing. S.R. Smith will be exploring the product line and other aspects of the business it may want to change. “Everything stays the same, as of right now,” Gasperson said. “I think S.R. Smith has done a good job realizing there’s a lot of value in our business, and they don’t want to [make big changes] out of the chute. So I would say over the next year or two, you could see some changes.”
The Australian purchase serves two purposes, McGrath said. First, it introduces S.R. Smith and its products to the second-largest pool market. Second, because the seasons run opposite of ours in the Northern Hemisphere, it should boost S.R. Smith’s revenue generation during America’s down months.
There is some product overlap, with both firms selling starting blocks and other competitive swim gear. S.R. Smith will begin selling some of its products through Anti-Wave.
Currently, S.R. Smith is analyzing the Aussie firm’s line to decide whether to bring any products to the USA.