Barco Takes 5% Position In Chinese LED Giant Unilumin Via Partnership Deal

Belgium’s Barco has taken a 5% position in Chinese direct view LED giant Unilumin, as part of a new “strategic collaboration.”

The partnership announced at Barco’s end gives the European company access to a “cost-competitive supply of high-quality LED display components, that allows broader penetration in its core markets with differentiated Barco LED visualization hardware and software solutions.”

Barco’s new minority stake of 5% is via a share transfer and is valued at about $59 million USD. That would put Unilumin’s market valuation at about $1.2 billion USD.

From Barco’s announcement:

Since its foundation in 2004, Unilumin has established itself as one of the largest suppliers of LED display products with state-of-the-art technology. Unilumin is dedicated to provide customers with advanced LED technology solutions, and its business has covered 160 countries. Their excellence of innovation, first-class product performance and large-scale manufacturing ability, combined with Barco’s accumulated knowledge of LED and image processing solutions and the market in general is opening doors for a growing LED platform for Barco in the future.

Over the past couple of years, LED has started to find its way as high-end visualization solution in some of Barco’s core market segments. The evolution unveils a sizeable untapped potential adding distinct addressable market opportunities in markets such as Control Rooms, Pro-AV and other vertical market segments. The international collaboration with a key manufacturer like Unilumin offers Barco the capability to address this rapidly developing opportunity with cost-effective offerings and state-of-the-art technology.

At the same time, this partnership enhances Unilumin’s opportunity to broaden its geographic market and access new applications for their leading technology, while also leveraging Barco’s technology and experience in LED.

“Barco’s heritage includes some of the most impressive customized LED installations all around the world,” says Jan De Witte, CEO of Barco. “However, LED technology continues to develop at a rapid pace and starts to open up interesting opportunities in mainstream markets in the Entertainment and Enterprise segments. With this partnership we are strengthening our global competitive play as we further expand the hardware component of our ‘hardware + software + services’ proposition towards our target markets.”

Both companies will also combine their competences and work together in the development of innovative technologies and new products. While Unilumin has the capability and the knowhow to produce large volumes of quality LED products, Barco’s LED image processing platform guarantees unprecedented results in every situation.

“Barco is our route to the high-end market offering access to a broader and more global audience,” adds Mingfeng Lin, CEO of Unilumin. “In addition, this cooperation also allows us to leverage Barco’s image processing capabilities in LED solutions. Both companies are convinced that the mutual recognition of each other’s strengths will result in a win-win opportunity and a long-term beneficial partnership for everyone involved, including the customer.”

Unilumin, in its PR, suggests the two companies will be going after the cinema market – where Barco has a long history with projectors. Samsung in the past 18 months has started selling direct view LED screens and high end audio as an alternative to projection and screens, and this would be Barco’s response.

Unilumin and Barco, says the Chinese company’s PR, “will combine each other’s competences and cooperate in the joint development of LED display solutions, especially in the cinema market where Barco currently accounts for more than 50% of the total volume. Both companies will complement each other’s advantages to complete as soon as possible the joint development and promotion of cinema LED display solutions that comply with DCI certification standards and be fully prepared in both technology and marketing for the explosion of the cinema market.

Barco has been doing outdoor and indoor LED for many years, but has seen a massive wave of competitors enter the market in the last three years, the biggest among them Unilumin. Based in Shenzhen, Unilumin is up there in size and sales with Leyard.

I had no luck finding sales turnover numbers on Unilumin, but am guessing they’re higher than Barco., which has 2018 sales of $1.1 billion USD. Barco has about 3,600 people. Unilumin has 5,000-plus.

Industry observer Gary Kayye speculates that this may be the first move in Barco buying Unilumin. I dunno. I could see the opposite happening, given where the momentum is in the business.

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