In a move that came as a surprise to many industry observers, ASSA ABLOY on Wednesday announced that it has entered into an agreement to purchase the Hardware and Home Improvement (HHI) division of Spectrum Brands for $4.3 billion.
The acquisition would bring brands such as Kwikset, Baldwin, Weiser and National Hardware under the corporate umbrella of ASSA ABLOY. The deal also would include Pfister, a maker of consumer plumbing fixtures and accessories.
In a statement, ASSA ABLOY said the acquisition is a “strategically important step” in developing its residential business in North America while also supplementing the company’s “reputation for innovation” on the commercial side.
“This acquisition advances our strategy to strengthen our position by adding complementary products to the core business,” Nico Delvaux, president and CEO of ASSA ABLOY, said in the statement. “It will further accelerate the transformation from mechanical to digital solutions.”
“Our technology platform and innovation focus supplements HHI’s current offerings and provides an exciting opportunity for us to deliver superior value to consumers,” added Lucas Boselli, executive vice president of ASSA ABLOY and head of the Americas Division.
For its part, Spectrum Brands said divesting of the HHI division would enable it to focus its business around its three remaining business units, including Global Pet Care, Home & Garden and Home and Personal Care. “I am confident that ASSA ABLOY will take (HHI) to its highest potential,” said David Maura, CEO of Spectrum Brands. “After the closing, we will become a more pure-play consumer staples company.”
Headquartered in Lake Forest, Calif., HHI employs about 7,500 people worldwide and has manufacturing facilities in the United States, Mexico, Taiwan, China and the Philippines. For the fiscal year ending September 2020, HHI’s net sales were $1.3 billion with an adjusted EBITDA margin of around 19%.
Analysts say the combination of Kwikset and Baldwin with ASSA ABLOY’s existing consumer-focused product lines, such as those from Yale and August Home, would create a residential access control juggernaut.
“The acquisition of Spectrum Brands’ Hardware and Home Improvement division by ASSA ABLOY brings together the two leading door lock makers, in terms of market share, in the smart-home industry,” says Patrice Samuels, senior analyst at market research firm Parks Associates. “The collaboration between these teams should drive high innovation and better user experiences in the smart-door-lock industry and give ASSA ABLOY greater influence in setting industry standards.”
SecurityInfoWatch.com reached out to ASSA ABLOY for further comment on how these new brands fit into the company’s overall strategy, but the company declined to comment beyond the statements issued because of in-progress regulatory approvals.
According to Brian Ruttenbur, managing director at Imperial Capital, the move also could have a significant effect on the bottom line of another industry heavyweight.
“I think that Allegion has to be worried by this, because this is a big competitive threat for them, as the shelf space at a Home Depot or Lowe's has just dramatically shifted to ASSA ABLOY,” Ruttenbur says. “The only thing that [Allegion] can hope for is to claim that this is a monopolistic move. If I were in their position, that’s what I would try to do. That said, it’s impossible for me to know what the regulators are thinking along those lines — that’s not my forte — but all I can say is I wouldn’t want to be in the boardroom of Allegion.”
In a company statement, Allegion said: “This announcement, which is still pending regulatory approvals, does not change Allegion’s long-term business strategy or approach to the residential markets and current landscape in the U.S.”
Integrators, Locksmiths Weigh In
John Loud, the owner and president of Georgia-based LOUD Security Systems, says ASSA ABLOY’s continued investment in the residential side of the business is “impressive and encouraging.”
“Clearly, investing with the residential piece is an interesting position and is different than what I've kind of known [ASSA ABLOY] to be in the past,” adds Loud, who also is chairman-elect of the Electronic Security Association (ESA). “Kwikset [is used] especially when you are in the builder marketplace, but I think the most interesting thing is that ASSA ABLOY is [acquiring] that much of the residential marketplace to say, ‘we've got the commercial play, but now we are going to invest billions to take more of a market position from the resi part.’”
Larry Schwalb, owner of Philadelphia-based Houdini Lock & Safe, which has been in business for over 35 years, calls the acquisition a “game-changer.”
“What they are really after is the grade 3 hardware business – Kwikset and Baldwin and getting into those big boxes. It’s a race to the bottom,” Schwalb adds. “One of the most popular things people need is locks and keys. Buyers want it so cheap that they will drive by four locksmiths and a hardware store just to get a deadbolt at a big-box store. People will buy a deadbolt for $20 and think that’s adequate for their home.”
Schwalb says the deal is somewhat reminiscent of when Stanley Works acquired Best Access Systems in 2002; however, he notes that ASSA ABLOY is likely to keep many of the brands in the corporate fold rather than sell them off.
“They’ll keep Kwikset. Kwikset is a huge asset. They’ll keep Baldwin. Baldwin is absolutely another great asset,” he adds. “It’s a really interesting development.”
The acquisition is expected to close during the fourth quarter of 2021.
Joel Griffin is Editor-in-Chief of SecurityInfoWatch.com; Paul Rothman is Editor-in-Chief of Security Business magazine; and Will Christensen is Senior Editor of Locksmith Ledger magazine.