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Are GoPro's Solo Days Numbered?

Rich Duprey, The Motley Fool

Shares of GoPro (NASDAQ: GPRO) got a bounce recently after CEO Nick Woodman told Bloomberg he would entertain the action-camera maker getting bought out:

"My job as CEO of GoPro is to look for opportunities for us to realize our vision and to create as big an opportunity for our investors as possible. If that's as a stand-alone, independent company, that's terrific, but if we can achieve that more easily and more quickly with a partner, we'd jump at the chance to look at the opportunity."

Snowboarder wearing a GoPro camera

Image source: GoPro.

The same old song

The market reacted to the statement by sending GoPro's shares 7% higher. But for some time now, really, Woodman has been pushing the idea that he's open to selling the company. Last month he told CNBC the same thing: that he was willing to sell out if the right deal came along. It was also reported the camera maker had hired JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM) to arrange the sale, so this latest pronouncement is nothing new.

It seems clear even management knows that getting bought out is likely the best option for the company, despite Woodman's declaration that remaining independent is an option, too. The only real question is whether GoPro has already lined up someone to buy the company, or is Woodman still sending out signals that he wants someone to swoop in and make an offer.

In the latest bid to tell the world GoPro is available, Woodman gave a "no comment" response when asked if anyone had reached out.

Why sell out now

The problems with GoPro are legion. The action-camera maker suffered from a series of product introductions that underwhelmed the market, yet it continued pricing these products at premium levels, necessitating heavy discounting during the holidays on products old and new. Cameras like the Hero5 Black as well as the new Hero6 Black were offered with a $100 price cut.

GoPro also misjudged the drone market and its ability to navigate the competitive marketplace, which caused profit margins to suffer. And last month it was forced to admit it failed to see the impact that stricter regulation of drones would have on their viability, a development that made the business "untenable." It didn't help, either, that GoPro's drones literally fell out of the sky due to manufacturing problems.

The cumulative effect: The camera maker announced in January that it was shutting down the Karma drone and firing about 20% of its workforce.

GoPro's Karma drone

Image source: GoPro.

A foregone conclusion?

The problem for GoPro is that the company's cameras are good. Too good, in fact. It's not necessary for users to continuously upgrade their devices when new ones are introduced because the existing ones are so feature-rich and well made. But that well-built reputation might make GoPro attractive to a hardware business like Garmin (NASDAQ: GRMN), which has its own action camera on the market, though its market share is negligible.

Other rumored buyers include social media platforms, due to their increasing reliance on video.

The obvious potential buyers would be YouTube and Facebook (NASDAQ: FB), and to a lesser degree Snap (NYSE: SNAP). At the moment, Snap doesn't let users broadcast live, and has struggled with its Spectacles camera efforts. Facebook could make sense, as Facebook Live could be a natural pairing with a GoPro offering, as could the company's Oculus VR platform.

While Woodman says remaining independent is also on the table, heightened competition, mounting losses, and the company's many stumbles suggest that GoPro would make a much better buyout candidate.

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Rich Duprey has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Facebook and GoPro. The Motley Fool has the following options: short March 2018 $200 calls on Facebook and long March 2018 $170 puts on Facebook. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.