Analyst view: Apple close to acquiring Beats Electronics
Apple are not just buying a headphone business – it’s a streaming business too. Apple’s investment makes sense. We’re talking about a strong higher-end headphone manufacturer – industry estimates tend to put their 2013 sales at USD1.5 billion. Beyond that, however, Apple are also buying a strong brand and an interesting burgeoning online streaming music business. Beats Music is well integrated with AT&T handset plans, and its ‘curatorial’ approach to music recommendation (getting musicians and celebrities to recommend tracks and playlists, not just an engine) should have good synergies with the Apple brand. We’d expect Apple to take some of the best aspects of Beats Music, such as the curated recommendation system, and put them into its own music services.
Apple is likely to do a lot more with headsets, and wearables, possibly around health. In February 2014, Apple was successfully awarded a patent for a health-monitoring earphone system. These earbuds would monitor temperature, heart rate, perspiration and potentially act as a controller, as well as delivering audio. The broader wearables market is drawing the attention and investment of all major handset manufacturers at the moment and sport and health is a key application – we estimate that around 20 million US smartphone users currently use health and fitness apps.
Beats’ has history with smartphone manufacturer HTC. HTC realised the value of the premium audio experience in 2011, when it acquired a majority stake in Beats Electronics. Profitability issues since then pushed HTC to downgrade and then divest its investment in the company across 2012 and 2013. This was not a ‘mistake’ for HTC but a necessary financial move at the time – it needed to present a positive margin to the market in the final quarter of 2013. HTC continues to present itself as a brand for audiophiles through its built-in sound systems in the HTC One and MTC One M8.
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