GoPro Inc (NASDAQ: GPRO) said on Monday that it isn't actively seeking sale of the company, driven by absolutely terrible operating numbers in the fourth quarter of 2017, but it's willing to listen to offers. Read between the lines and GoPro is for sale if the price is right. It's become clear that GoPro can no longer flourish as a stand-alone company, it needs to leverage someone else's platform to be successful.
While GoPro's business may not be attractive on its own, it could be attractive to a number of companies looking to bolt on the popular action camera brand to their existing products. I'm not predicting a bidding war, but someone will be interested in GoPro's assets.
The Karma drone, which GoPro is discontinuing. Image source: GoPro.
GoPro's problems aren't getting any better
The problem for GoPro over the last five years hasn't just been improving smartphone cameras, it's that the ecosystem of functionality on smartphones is choking off its business. Every time GoPro tries to make it easier to go from capturing images to editing and sharing images the smartphone takes a step ahead. For example, GoPro Plus cloud service and QuikStories were big new products in the last two years, but similar (or better) features are now standard and integrated into most smartphones.
GoPro simply can't build an image and video ecosystem outside of the smartphone ecosystems built by Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), Alphabet, and Samsung. So, it has to team up with someone to make its products viable again.
Potential buyers of GoPro
It makes some sense for tech companies like Apple or Samsung to snoop around GoPro. For Apple, integrating the Hero line of cameras could be a nice line extension and its memories function in Photos and cloud services would augment GoPro's cameras. The Fusion spherical camera could also be an interesting product for either company getting into VR and augmented reality. But owning GoPro may be more of a headache than it's worth for either smartphone giant.
The more likely buyers are other device companies that could add GoPro's cameras to their lineups. Garmin (NASDAQ: GRMN) makes sense as a buyer given its action sports customers. It has also introduced its own action cameras that integrate with watches. Garmin could also leverage its own sales and R&D to reduce operating expenses for each camera sale.
It may be humiliating, but drone-maker DJI would also be a logical buyer of GoPro. The company started mounting GoPro cameras on its drones and eventually built its own cameras and integrated them into the world's most successful consumer drones. Bringing the two companies, and brands, together could create a powerful ecosystem of products that would play off each other well.
Can a deal get done?
One caveat is that any buyer would likely force Nike Woodman out as CEO. He has 77% of the voting power in the company, giving him full control over GoPro's sale and operations right now. But given the company's poor performance lately, he's not an asset any buyer is looking to acquire.
I don't know if Woodman is willing to let go of his company, but it's likely in the best interest of shareholders and GoPro's future for a new owner to step in. If the price is right and buyers are interested, GoPro could be an interesting target for a number of companies in tech and action sports.
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