Bang & Olufsen was on track for its best trading day since the beginning of the year after its chairman signaled that the beleaguered maker of luxury TVs and stereos is up for sale.
It’s not clear that B&O, which is based in western Denmark, has any potential suitors, but the comments by Chairman Ole Andersen to the Borsen newspaper were initially embraced by investors, who drove the stock up as much as 15 percent after the market opened in Copenhagen on Friday. As investors took a bit more time to think, B&O’s gains petered out, and the shares were about 2 percent higher after roughly an hour of trading.
“If we were to get an approach, then we’ll listen, but it would naturally also need to be discussed with the shareholders. We’re obligated to do that,” Andersen told Borsen. Asked whether such a scenario is now more relevant, given the latest developments at the company, Andersen said yes.
The comments come after a disastrous year for B&O, which even after Friday’s share-price gains is down more than 50 percent in 2019. B&O issued its most recent profit warning in June, when it said that sales were falling even faster than anticipated.
“We’re in a situation where we need a contingency plan, and we of course have one,” Andersen said.
Per Hansen, an investment economist at Nordnet in Copenhagen, said in a note to clients that “B&O’s challenge lies first and foremost in the fact that it can’t react fast enough and that it still has a high cost base.”
Andersen himself noted earlier in the week at the company’s annual general meeting that B&O had fallen behind in product launches. He also acknowledged that management had faced “considerable challenges” in pushing through the necessary changes to the sales and distribution network.
Hansen notes that the company “probably hasn’t had a recent offer made to it and it probably doesn’t have a long list of potential suitors that it can call.” Ultimately, discussing a possible sale is a scenario that he says “ought to have been explored earlier.”
“The last 12 month haven’t created any justified expectations of an imminent sale at a very high price,” Hansen said. “For investors it looks like the current best card to play is that the share price is historically low.”
Investors may now be asking themselves why B&O’s board was so determined to fend off a 2016 takeover attempt. Back then, Sparkle Roll -- a company controlled by Chinese billionaire Qi Jianhong -- indicated it was interested in buying B&O as it built up a major stake. But Andersen rebuffed its overtures, referring to the uncertainty surrounding a potential bid. That was three years ago, when a B&O share cost considerably more than now.
Andersen has more time to focus on B&O these days, after being ousted from the head of the board of Danske Bank late last year in connection with a $230 billion money laundering scandal. His departure was forced through by A.P. Moller, the biggest shareholder in Danske. Andersen has also agreed to step down as chairman of food-ingredient maker Chr. Hansen.