Merger Creates World's Largest Marine Electronics Company

"Gear Up" from our February 21, 2007, /SW eNewsletter/.

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The big news at the Miami International Boat Show last week came from some easily recognized names in the marine electronics world. Navico, a privately held Scandinavian Equity house, was formed in September 2006 to purchase B&G, Lowrance, Simrad, and Eagle. Last Thursday, February 15, Navico announced that it had signed an agreement with Brunswick Corporation to purchase Brunswick New Technologies, which consists of Northstar, Navman, and MX Marine. "This makes Navico the global leader in the marine electronics market," said Jens-Thomas Pietralla, Navico's president and CEO, when I spoke to him before the press conference announcing the purchase. "We're strengthening our salt-water position in North America, and will supply electronics for all Brunswick boats."My first question to Pietralla was about which companies might be merged as a result of the acquisition. After all, that's what happens in acquisitions, right? Brand names disappear, employees are classified as redundant and let go, and there's a general feeling of confusion as consumers wonder who's going to help them with warranty and repair issues, and where their loyalties should lie."We're a young company," said Pietralla, "but the companies we own and the ones we're purchasing reflect 185 years of marine electronics experience. We'll be keeping the brands, as they have distinct positions in the market." Phew. In the press release, Pietralla also mentioned that Northstar and Navman (MX Marine builds electronics for commercial vessels) bring "key innovations . . . design and user-friendliness" to Navico. I've been a fan of Northstar plotters for 10 years, and am glad to see that we'll continue to see their products. What especially interests me is what we'll see as B&G and Northstar are brought under the same umbrella. B&G, which owns Deckman tactical software, has a lot of experience with raceboat instruments, and has a new instrument system, H3000. Northstar builds great plotters. 'Nuff said.I visited the B&G booth for a look at the H3000 instrument system. The core of the system is the CPU, which now has software that's upgradeable by the user, as well as USB ports for outputting data to a computer. There are three processing levels available, Hydra, Hercules, and Hercules Performance, which go from basic processing (Hydra) all the way up to a system that comes with Deckman already installed (Hercules Performance). B&G techies have also created what they call AutoCal, an automated calibration routine that takes the difficulties of calibration out of the hands of the tactician. New displays, such as the 3000 Graphical Display (GFD), operate as the main display of the system and show color and monochrome displays of graphical data (strip charts). B&G also introduced the 30/30 range of displays, designed for boats between 50 and 90 feet. In next week's "Gear Up," I'll lower the altitude a bit and talk about some of the less costly, but very cool electronics I saw at the Miami Show.