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Harman Adding B&O Brand To OEM Sound Systems

Stamford, Conn. – Harman will buy Bang & Olufsen’s OEM automotive audio business and get the exclusive right to use the B&O and B&O Play names in OEM sound systems available from automakers.

The purchase price, including brand licenses, is 145 million euros ($157 million) under an agreement signed by the companies.

Bang & Olufsen sound systems are available in Audi, Aston Martin, BMW and Mercedes-Benz vehicles in the U.S. and other countries. The company launched its automotive division 10 years ago.

The sale comes as B&O struggles with weak financials. The company’s global sales were essentially flat at 1,330 million kroner ($191.2 million) in the first half of its 2014/2015 fiscal year ending last November, compared with the year-ago half’s 1,388 kroner ($192.5 million). B&O’s loss after taxes grew to 181 million kroner from a year-ago 45 million kroner loss.

European news reports said B&O has appointed an investment bank to seek a buyer. B&O chairman Ole Anderson was also quoted in news reports as saying B&O was “too small to be independent” and was questioning “whether to seek some partners.”

Harman chairman, president and CEO Dinesh Paliwal called B&O “a distinctive brand that will complement our existing premium-branded offerings and strengthen Harman’s position in this segment.” Bang & Olufsen-branded audio will continue to appear “at the top of the high-end luxury segment,” but with Harman “we will rapidly grow B&O Play-branded solutions in the larger mass luxury market,” Paliwal said.

Harman already markets sound systems to automakers under the Bowers & Wilkins, Harman Kardon, Infinity, JBL, Lexicon, Mark Levinson and Revel home-audio brands.