Rumors of potential Pelco sale seem a reality now

April 2, 2019
Schneider Electric has entered exclusive negotiations with investment group to divest its video business

During what might be considered the security technology industry’s “golden age” more than two decades back, it was a world of bold ideas and brash entrepreneurs, a start-up that sought a stable future not the next venture capital investor to sell to. It was into this world that Pelco Sales morphed from a small aviation joy-stick manufacturer in Gardena, California, to one of the most prestigious video surveillance device companies on the planet in the late 1980s under the guidance of CEO David McDonald and team. Moving to a state-of-the-art technology campus of more than 80,000 square feet in Clovis, the “new” Pelco continued to innovate and expand internationally.

The company then took the same road several of its contemporaries did in the late 1990s and early 2000s by hitching its future to a corporate behemoth. Like Lenel, Software House, Sensormatic and several other foundational companies, Pelco sold out to international building automation giant Schneider Electric in 2008 for $1.2 billion, which at the time was the largest acquisition of an analog video camera manufacturer. In the years that followed Pelco’s technology edge dulled as Schneider failed to integrate a workable course for growth, sparking continual rumors of acquisition and sale.

This past week the rumors of a Schneider Electric divestiture of Pelco seem to be an eventual reality. According to Reuters, Schneider entered into exclusive negotiations with U.S. private equity firm the Transom Capital Group regarding the sale of the Pelco business unit. The guess among security business experts is that Transom Capital is looking to reinvigorate Pelco’s product and image and help improve on the $185 million in revenues reported for 2018.

“Unfortunately for Schneider, the deal was never a success. While Pelco was a profitable company, it did not have the IP network camera technology which subsequently went on to dominate the market over the succeeding 10 years. IP networked products now have the largest share of the video camera market and are continuing to grow,” says James McHale, Managing Director for Memoori, a consultancy company based in Stockholm providing independent market research, business intelligence and advice on Smart Building technologies to companies across the value chain.

Losing its clout as a leading camera solutions provider after the Schneider sale, Pelco sought to target enterprise vertical market segments in the emerging video management software side of the surveillance business with modest success.

McHale points out that back in 2008, IP network camera technology was still emerging, and many skeptics doubted it would overtake analog.

“If Schneider had taken a serious look at Axis Communications, a leader in IP Network Cameras back then, they could certainly have acquired it for less than $1.2 billion. Now roll forward to 2015; Axis was acquired by Canon for $2.8 billion and today would probably not sell for less than $4 billion,” chides McHale.

There are no public figures on the asking price for Pelco by Schneider executives, however, they did admit to booking a non-cash loss on disposal of up to $250 million, the net impact of which would be excluded from the net income used for dividend calculation.

According to McHale, if the reports are valid, Pelco is unlikely to sell for more than

$200 million.

“So, sadly for Schneider, they backed the wrong horse. But hindsight is a wonderful thing," adds McHale.