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Rockford Returns To 12V Market

Rockford Corp. is returning to its focus on automotive electronics with the sale of home and pro audio company NHT, which in turn vowed to step up engineering and marketing efforts now that it has been freed from its debt-laden parent.

As part of a restructuring plan to focus on the 12-volt business, Rockford is also selling off the home and pro audio inventories of its Hafler and Fosgate Audionics brands, although Rockford will retain the two brand names. Rockford already sold off its inventory of OmniFi-brand products, which included PC-networked A/V streaming clients for the home and PC-networked car audio products.

Rockford this week also agreed to sell off the North American rights to the MB Quart brand to Maxxsonics, which has also agreed to buy the assets of Rockford’s German-based MB Quart operation, which markets home, car and pro audio.

“With these two actions,” said Rockford president/CEO W. Gary Suttle, “We have completed the transformation we set out to accomplish last year. We have stabilized Rockford financially. We reduced our operating expenses, and divested non-core [non-mobile] businesses and assets.”

With the restructuring, Rockford expects to break even on its operations in the fiscal year ending December 2005 but hasn’t said whether net income will return to the black. During the prior fiscal year, Rockford posted a net loss of $38.9 million and operating loss of $27.4 million on sales of $169.6 million, a spokeswoman said.

For NHT, its sale to Niwot, Colo.-based Vinci Labs marks its third owner in six years but the first time in six years that it will operate as a stand-alone entity focused on its core home and pro businesses. As part of Recoton and then, in late 2002, Rockford, the NHT brand was part of a stable of home and pro brands that shared marketing, sales and engineering resources, said Chris Byrne, NHT co-founder and managing director.

NHT’s first step will be to augment its engineering staff and take advantage of the engineering resources of its parent, a former Flextronics division that designs DSPs and surround processors at the chip and board levels for consumer electronics companies. NHT, which remains in Benicia, Calif., is Vinci’s first consumer-brand company, but Vinci has no plans for now to pursue other consumer-brand acquisitions, Byrne said. “Their general thrust is technology acquisitions.”

For NHT’s existing dealers and independent reps, the immediate impact will be a faster rate of product introductions and, within 60 to 90 days, improved finance-department responsiveness as the company begins operating as a self-contained entity as it did in the mid-1990s when it operated as a self-contained company within the Jensen family, Byrne said.