In Early November, Big Three manufacturer Zodiac Pool Solutions signed an intent to merge with global powerhouse Fluidra to form what company officials call the world’s largest pool-equipment provider.
“If we now look at the market, we will see that, until [the agreement], there wasn’t truly a global leader,” said Eloi Planes, executive president of Fluidra. “This merger … is the most complementary and truly creates this global leader.”
The new firm will retain Fluidra’s name and global headquarters in Sabadell, Spain, near Barcelona. Zodiac’s Vista, Calif. offices now will serve as Fluidra’s North American headquarters. The new company will serve every continent, with a physical presence in 46 countries, sales in 150 nations, and a staff of 5,500. Sales are expected to total 1.3 billion euro (approximately $1.51B at press time). The new entity holds about 1,100 patents.
No changes are planned for Zodiac’s leading brands or for any SKUs, officials said. The Zodiac and Fluidra lines do overlap in some areas, particularly robotic cleaners, alternative sanitation and the Internet of Things. These overlaps will be explored, officials said. The new entity expects to retain its current loyalty programs for dealers and buying groups.
The deal is expected to close the first half of 2018. As part of the transaction, Zodiac’s equity owner, Rhone Capital, receives 83 million shares of Fluidra stock, which it cannot sell for at least two years. Rhone’s shares will comprise 42% of the company’s total, while the Spanish producer’s founding families will hold 29%.
Fluidra has long been a publicly traded company. Its new iteration will remain listed on the Spanish Stock Exchange.
Historically, Fluidra’s residential sales far outweigh its commercial, at least on a global basis. However, the Spanish producer has mostly been known in the U.S. as a dominant provider of commercial equipment, first under the name Astral. It took the Fluidra moniker in 2007, after acquiring several other companies. Fluidra has tried boosting its presence here by establishing a U.S. headquarters in Jacksonville, Fla., through which to sell its large, commercial-grade equipment. It then purchased Cedar Grove, N.J.-based robotic-cleaner maker Aqua Products in 2010, to further boost its U.S. profile. Today, its major brands include AstralPool, Cepex, Gre and CTX Professional.
In 2016, Fluidra generated approximately $827 million in sales. But to date, only about 7% of its sales came from North America. Its largest market, Europe, accounts for 63%.
With the transaction, Fluidra receives a large bump in the Americas, which the manufacturer estimates account for 54% of the global pool-equipment market. It will see a boost in the residential market, in particular, through Zodiac-, Jandy - and Polaris-branded products, which also provide a deeper entrée into automation and the Internet of Things.
In turn, Fluidra brings a stronger global presence and healthy slate of commercial offerings to complement Zodiac’s lines, which accounted for approximately $546 million in sales in 2016.
“Fluidra’s deep portfolio of products and experience ... will give us the ability to expand into commercial projects, including recreation centers, waterparks and resorts,” the manufacturer said.
Eloi Planes will become executive chairman of the board, while Zodiac CEO Bruce Brooks will move to Spain and serve as the new company’s CEO.
Planes said Fluidra began exploring a Zodiac merger in 2009, but then came the Great Recession. “[But] the industrial rationale of this merger is so evident that we’ve been talking about it for years.”
Both boards unanimously support the merger. An expanded board will include 12 members — four nominated by Fluidra’s founding families, four by Rhone Capital, and four independents.
The new entity does not plan to change its official locations. At least until the merger’s finalization, customers should continue to work through their regular Zodiac and Fluidra contacts.