Amplifon Said to Compete for Hearing-Aid Retailer AudioNova

  • Italian competitor said to have secured financing for bid
  • Sale may fetch 500 million euros for Audionova owner HAL Trust

Italian hearing-aid company Amplifon SpA is bidding for AudioNova International BV to expand its network in Europe, setting up a potential contest with rival audiology companies, according to people familiar with the matter.

Amplifon is working with advisers and secured financing for a potential acquisition, said the people, who asked not to be named because the deliberations are private. No final decisions have been made and Amplifon may decide against a purchase, they said. Spokesmen for Amplifon and AudioNova’s owner HAL Trust declined to comment.

HAL is considering a sale that could fetch about 500 million euros ($570 million), people familiar with the matter said in February. William Demant Holding A/S, Sonova Holding AG and private equity firm EQT Partners AB’s hearing-aid unit Sivantos AG have also considered bids for the Rotterdam, Netherlands-based business, the people said at the time.

Amplifon reversed earlier losses after Bloomberg News reported talks and gained as much as 1.9 percent in Milan trading. The shares were up 1.8 percent to 7.76 euros at 5:05 p.m., giving the company a market value of 1.75 billion euros ($2 billion).

Amplifon could use a combination with AudioNova to increase its presence in strategically important European countries, analysts from Sanford C. Bernstein said in a note in February. Still, the two companies have large numbers of stores across the continent and could run into antitrust issues.

The hearing-aid industry has been a popular target for acquirers. Last year, William Demant, based in Denmark, agreed to buy Audika Groupe of France. In 2014, Amplifon bought a stake in a Brazilian hearing aid supplier as well as Audika’s Italian assets. AudioNova bought the shares it didn’t already own in German hearing aid retailer Geers Horakustik last year.

HAL, through its subsidiaries, owns and manages a wide range of companies from office furniture to a marketing business that targets garden centers. AudioNova operates about 1,300 stores across Europe, according to its website. Its revenues climbed 8.5 percent from a year earlier to 333 million euros in 2014, according to HAL’s website.

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