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S.R.Smith acquires solar pool leader Sunbather

S.R.Smith acquires solar pool leader Sunbather
November 14, 2019

Pioneering Australian solar pool heating manufacturer Sunbather Pty Ltd has been bought by US-based aquatic equipment manufacturer S.R.Smith.

Along with the purchase of Sunbather, S.R.Smith has also acquired a 50% in Aspire Polymers Australia, a manufacturer of innovative rigid solar panels that had been working with Sunbather.

The acquisition will see no immediate staffing changes with Tom Boadle to remain as General Manager and Chief Operating Officer of Sunbather and all staff members expected to remain with the company.

Sunbather’s manufacturing and offices will remain in Hastings, Victoria and Sunbather will operate independently from Brisbane-based SRS Australia Pty Ltd led by Keith Hall.

Advising that the entire Sunbather team is excited to become part of the global SR Smith organisation and they look forward to continuing to grow both the Australian and international business, Boadle stated “the timing of this acquisition is strongly aligned with Australian and global demand for more energy efficient pool solutions.”

The transaction aligns with founder Simon Boadle’s desire to retire from the industry after 45 years of contribution, innovation and support.

SR Smith, LLC, is a leading manufacturer of swimming pool deck equipment, lighting and access products, headquartered in Oregon, USA. They have an office in Brisbane and acquired Australian company Anti Wave Australia in 2013 and certain assets from AFP in 2015.

Sunbather is a leading manufacturer and supplier of pool energy saving solutions both in the domestic and commercial sectors. The company’s portfolio includes solar pool heating and accessories, thermal pool covers and rollers, automatic security covers, hidden pool covers, heat pumps and gas heaters.

The acquisition was finalised on 31st October 2019 and Sunbather has been contacting clients and suppliers prior to announcing the sale.

Future synergies 
Commenting on the acquisition, Rich Laitta, President and Chief Executive of S.R.Smith stated “there’s a lot of energy there and the acquisition will be a great addition to our business.

“We were impressed with the whole business at Sunbather. We had a look at it and we didn’t see a weakness, and the way they leverage technology will add real value.”

Both S.R.Smith and Sunbather are involved in the commercial market and Laitta says while they didn’t see a lot of overlaps, they did see a lot of synergies and a chance to complement what they were doing in the US.

Laitta advised “one of our goals is to be diversified in both commercial and residential - we’re striven to have a balance and that diversification has been working well so far in the US, and Sunbather will bring additional diversification in Australia.

“We also liked their manufacturing and thought that may provide opportunities for future expansion.”

Noting that Australia adds a sizeable increase to their existing market, Laitta explained “the Australian market has about one million pools, and the US market has about five million.

Neither are growing at a remarkable rate at the moment, but by adding Australia to the mix we have increased our available market by 20%.”

Regarding further acquisitions, Laitta added “we’re always looking for things that will add value to the whole business, and in time we may look at something else globally.”

Next step for Australian brand
Sunbather, founded in 1974 by Simon Boadle, pioneered the solar pool heating industry in Australia before expanding into thermal covers and security covers to become one of the largest suppliers of commercial pool covers in Australia.

Advising that the company has been undergoing tremendous growth over the past five years but needs a ready market and capital expenditure to realise its potential, Simon Boadle commented “a union with S.R.Smith can actually provide both of those things.

“They have a very well respected footprint in pretty much every country where you find swimming pools - especially in the commercial sector - and we’ll have access to the capital to meet that market very rapidly.”

Tom Boadle says that after 45 years of investing in the development of their products they have built a foundation for expansion, adding “up to now we’ve had to resource Sunbather ourselves which has naturally had its limitations. What we have built is a foundation of a strong brand, products and opportunities that will be better off in the hands of S.R.Smith with greater resources and better international connectivity. For us, we considered that we weren’t necessarily the ‘natural owners’ to take Sunbather to the next level.”

Export, commercial and growth
Simon Boadle says S.R.Smith was very excited about the Aspire products and that the Downunder launch has been very successful – Sunbather recently sold the Downunder into a number of export markets including the US.

He stated “we’ve pretty much sent them to every continent.

"Just recently in North America we’ve had sales of our products in Wyoming, Canada, Alabama and California amongst others.

“It became obvious that if we had a relationship with someone who already had distribution facilities in America, they could fill them with our products and have a ready market.”

With both parties seeing an enormous future in the commercial space, Tom Boadle concluded “the combined synergies make a lot of sense. There is no area where our two companies had been competing directly on products, but we regularly meet on site selling our individual products to aquatic centres. In terms of export, I feel in time there’ll be significant export from Hastings to the US.”

All Sunbather staff will be retained and minority shareholders John Dixon and Merv Smith will continue to drive growth under the new ownership in Queensland and New South Wales respectively.

Click here here to contact Sunbather Pty Ltd via their entry in the Australasian Leisure Management Supplier Directory.

Click here to contact S.R.Smith via their entry in the Australasian Leisure Management Supplier Directory.

Image shows (from left): Paul Carrol (Aspire), Bill Svendson and Mike DeDona (SRS), Simon Boadle and Anthony Lestani (Sunbather), Danielle Quintana and Richard Bacon (SRS), Mick Carrol (Aspire) and Tom Boadle (Sunbather).

Related Articles

30th October 2019 - New Ashfield Aquatic Centre to feature Australian-first moveable floor

12th August 2019 - Loreto Normanhurst enhances swimming options

5th February 2019 - Innovative Swim Wall enhances pool efficiency and programming at Cockburn ARC

29th June 2018 - Sunbather secures 2018 ARV Business Excellence Award

24th October 2017 - Sunbather Downunder Pool Cover System named SPASA Product of the Year

21st April 2017 - Sunbather offers a solution to soaring energy costs for Sydney pools

13th February 2017 - S.R.Smith completes SwimWall installation at Griffith University Gold Coast campus

10th July 2015 - S.R.Smith acquires assets of All Fibreglass Products

25th November 2015 - Sunbather delivers energy savings for Aquamoves Shepparton and SA Aquatic and Leisure Centre

5th February 2015 - S.R.Smith expands product range for Australian aquatic facilities

6th August 2014 - Sunbather celebrates 40 years in business

20th January 2014 - S.R.Smith appoints Anti Wave Australia General Manager

11th November 2013 - S.R.Smith acquires Anti Wave Australia

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