firm Amplifon is loud & clear: we are predator, not prey
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[July 31, 2017] MILAN
(Reuters) - The world's largest retailer of hearing aids, Italy's
Amplifon, says it is ready to make major acquisitions to bolster its
position in a $14 billion consumer market that is being invaded by the
Amplifon has been buying up hearing-aid retail chains, largely in
Europe, and says it now has 9 percent of the market, but it faces
challenges from hearing-aid makers Sonova of Switzerland and William
Demant of Denmark.
Sonova is already the second-largest retailer with around 7 percent,
according to Credit Suisse, after buying Dutch retail chain
AudioNova for about $1 billion last year. It has said it is looking
to buy retailers in the United States and Australia.
The retail market for hearing aids is made up largely of small
independent store chains, but has begun to consolidate as demand for
hearing aids grows among ageing populations and as manufacturers
move into the retailing and servicing side.
Two years ago, William Demant paid about $200 million for French
retail chain Audika.
"Our objective is to lead consolidation and to play a role as a
protagonist," Chief Executive Enrico Vita told Reuters in an
interview on Friday.
Amplifon has so far focused on making lots of small acquisitions,
but Vita said it was ready for bigger targets.
The company was looking at five or six retailers with revenues
ranging from 100 million to 200 million euros, in countries
including Germany, France, Spain and Austria.
"We are looking at these potential targets in order to be ready in
case they become available and up for sale," Vita said.
Amplifon's stock has surged more than 30 percent over the past 12
months but its market value of 2.7 billion euros is smaller than
some of the big manufacturers moving into retail.
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Vita said no one had yet made a bid approach to Amplifon. Asked if
it could become a takeover target, he added: "This is not part of
the plan. Our objective is to lead consolidation."
Amplifon is also building up businesses in emerging markets such as
Brazil, India and Turkey, and hopes to enter the potentially vast
Chinese market within 12 months, targeting metropolitan markets such
as Beijing or Shanghai. Currently, China's emerging retail market is
worth 300-400 million euros.
"We are talking to potential partners already in China ... In the
next 12 months we hope to be able to say something," he said.
(This version of the story corrects market size in intro and deal
size in paragraph 8)
(Reporting by Mark Bendeich)
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