Yesterday, US-based specialty display maker Planar Systems, Inc. announced it would acquire Clarity Visual Systems for $46M and company stock. What is particularly compelling about this announcement is that it begins to crystallize a growth strategy for Planar that should take it to new heights. We were a little concerned about how the acquisition might fit in, but after talking with company executives, we see a well thought-out strategy that could actually allow Planar to grow and remain profitable in the display business - not such an easy task.
Senior Analyst and Editor
of Projection Monthly
The gist of the strategy is to focus on market opportunities where product differentiation and performance matter and where customers are willing to pay a premium.
Planar already has a profitable business in higher-end medical products and commercial monitors but is rapidly putting the pieces in place to expand into new areas. The deal with Clarity will add strengths in the control room and digital signage markets - both high margin businesses. In addition, the company has hired practically the entire home theater team from InFocus, including Scott Hix, the executive VP and home theater darling credited with building the "Screen Play" brand in the CEDIA (Consumer Electronic Design and Installers Assoc.) channel in record time. Add to this the hiring of Brad Gleason, the force behind the pioneering work of ActiveLight in the digital signage area, and the seeds are planted for some dynamic growth. ActiveLight was recent sold to Electrograph (See Display Daily 2-22-06), allowing Gleason to come onboard.
Clarity Visual Systems is located just 20 miles away from Planar in Wilsonville, which will make integration much easier. Over the past year Clarity had been building an end-to-end solution through acquisitions of its own including digital signage software maker Cool Sign and Synelec Telecom Multimedia S.A., a digital display company based in France that specializes in the high-end command/control room market-with a specialty focus on transportation, telecommunications and utilities. This added 1200 display system install sites around the globe into the Clarity portfolio now inherited by Planar, including an expanded European distribution system.
The acquisition also makes sense from a technology development point of view. High end products developed for the control room and digital signage markets can be leveraged into products for other segments, minimizing development costs. And Clarity acquisition also includes Clarity’s CEO Paul Gulick, who will join the Planar team as VP and CTO. Gulick was instrumental in building up Clarity’s strong engineering team.
As for home theater and the new Planar BU, with Hix at the helm, talk around the Planar water cooler is that lightning really can strike twice. That’s probably not a bad bet. -SS