After a hiatus since 2004, Polaris Industries is getting back into the watercraft game. However, this time it’s doing it a little differently. In a massive deal, Polaris has just agreed to buy Boat Holdings, LLC for $805 million in an all-cash transaction.
You may have never heard of Boat Holdings, but if you’re into boats, it’s likely that you’ve heard of a few of the brands within the conglomerate. Boat Holdings is America’s largest manufacturer of pontoon boats with a few of its properties including Bennington, Godfrey, Hurricane, and Rinker.
“This transaction epitomizes our disciplined growth strategy of entering attractive markets where we can establish and extend our leadership position. In addition to market share leadership, Boat Holdings expands Polaris’ footprint in the recreational outdoors market, commanding more of consumers’ discretionary spending. Our product lineup will offer options to be enjoyed on the roads, trails, sand, dirt, snow and water,” said Polaris Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Scott W. Wine in a press release. “With their passion to create premium products and experiences, Boat Holdings is a strong cultural fit with Polaris as well, sharing our commitment to quality, innovation, safety, flexibility and efficiency. Further, Boat Holdings’ long-term relationships with its national dealer network speaks to the brand’s strength with both dealers and consumers.”
Bloomberg made a useful chart using data from the National Marine Manufacturers Association illustrating boat unit sales making a slow recovery since the recession, but boat spending reaching record highs. The data suggest that fewer people are buying boats, but the people who are buying boats are spending a lot more money on them than buyers used to. This could be part of the reason Polaris was interested in buying Boat Holdings, which carries the high-end Bennington brand that’s been pushing pontoon boats further upmarket.
Bloomberg also says that about one-third of people who own a Polaris product like an Indian Motorcycle or Polaris snowmobile are also boat owners. It stands to reason that someone who happily owns a Polaris Slingshot or ATV would strongly consider Polaris for their next boat purchase.
Whether or not Polaris will get back into the personal watercraft game remains to be seen, but we can see Polaris making a killing on boats with the right execution.