FLIR may sell Raymarine, don’t jump to conclusions
Last Thursday, Soundings Trade Only published “FLIR evaluates Raymarine sale” and resulting rumors about Ray’s troubled state are probably circulating already. Business must be bad if a sale is publicly contemplated, right? But the details of FLIR’s announcement only suggest that Ray is a small slice of a very large operation which thinks it can find more growth in other markets. Moreover, FLIR’s maritime electronics business was not identified as a factor in the earnings disappointment that was the company’s main news (unfortunately for investors).
So while it seems quite possible that Raymarine will become independent again, or part of a larger enterprise again, I see no evidence that the brand is failing, or that Ray users should get concerned. And the research also reminded me about the very small size of the entire recreational marine electronics industry — which is important to understand before you gripe about product prices, bugs, delayed shipping, etc.
These “FLIR Systems, Inc. Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2019 Results Conference Call” slides are available along with a lot more investor info here. And let’s note that the validity of such information is strictly regulated for publicly traded companies, with misrepresentations also subject to serious civil litigation.
So FLIR sold 1.9 billion dollars of goods in 2019 — which is larger than the entire global recreational marine electronics market, I’m pretty sure — and its maritime sales was just a portion of its smallest business unit (which is about to be merged into its largest unit).
More context: FLIR’s senior management must have known they came to the conference call with bad news. In fact, the 18% drop of NASDAQ:FLIR after the call made it one of the worst-performing stocks in a very bad week. Even though management did the obvious right thing, presenting a plan to “focus on strategic growth” with concrete details like a “formal process to evaluate divesture of our Raymarine non-thermal maritime electronics business.”
I’m certainly not a business analyst, but I don’t think that FLIR is in real trouble either. The tanking stock story is not about losing money, but rather not growing earnings as expected. And in regard to Raymarine, note that only its Commercial Unit siblings are blamed for both the lower revenue and earnings surprises.
At least by omission then, Raymarine is a healthy “little” business unit, and we’ve certainly seen their product lines improve immensely under FLIR’s wing. For instance, I don’t think that any marine brand is close in terms of managing boat cameras — thermal and otherwise, FLIR and otherwise — and that might motivate a business buyer.
I also found this slide illustrating the estimated sizes of all the markets that FLIR sells products into. It is probably based on careful research, and the Marine Electronics section likely represents recreational marine only because that’s what the vast majority of FLIR thermal and Raymarine products address.
Moreover, FLIR’s estimate of about 1.5 billion dollars is about the same number I’ve heard for years (though it’s hard for anyone to pin it down). And a 1.5B global recreational marine electronics market is a “cottage industry” even before you consider how fractured it is in terms of brands and product variety.
Here’s another data point: While researching the new SCX satellite compass design, I learned that “since 2000, Furuno has delivered about 40,000 Satellite Compass systems to the world market.” And we know that Furuno is probably the market leader in this niche, including commercial marine. Now consider all the R&D, marketing, support, and short-run manufacturing that has gone into many Furuno sat compass models over those 20 years.
Isn’t the right question not so much “Why are satellite compasses so expensive?” as “How can they deliver such a wondrous SCX boat sensor so inexpensively?” I’ll close by quoting myself from a 2012 entry that starts with Navico market share:
… let’s consider a larger point evident in these claims. Recreational marine electronics really is a “cottage industry” as the insiders joke. If Navico’s 256 million in 2012 revenues is “more than 30% market share,” doesn’t that mean that the five largest manufacturers took in about 825 million? Heck, my local semi-rural health conglomerate has revenues well above 100 million.
And consider, say, the iPad, which had sales of 10.7 billion dollars during the last quarter of 2012. Yes, if my math is correct, essentially one consumer electronics product (iPad models aren’t much different) generated revenues of 839 million dollars per week, more than the five leading marine electronics companies generate in a year. The next time you get miffed because your navigation system doesn’t update itself as easily as a Mac, shouldn’t you consider the numbers?