AquaLung Sold To Private Equity Firm

AquaLung Sold To Private Equity Firm

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It is probably fair to say that scuba diving began in earnest in 1946.

“Air Liquide has a strong historical attachment to the business, but it’s not core,” Liberum analyst Adam Collins told Bloomberg at the time when Aqua Lung was put up for sale. “There is no strategic rationale in being part of the business.” Air Liquide is one of the largest global suppliers of gases to big industrial installations, like refineries, as well as to hospitals and patients.

It was the year that Air Liquide, along with Jacques Cousteau and Emile Gagnan founded 'La Spirotechnique'. This company conceived, designed and manufactured a range of scuba diving equipment, including some of the first commercially available regulators. Their first modern 'Aqua-Lung' or regulator was the CG45.

Two years later in 1948, Rene Bussoz, a relative of Cousteau, based in California signed a five year contract with L'Air Liquide to import scuba equipment into the USA. Bussoz was a smart man. He changed the name 'La Spirotechnique' to 'US Divers' and registered the name 'Aqua-Lung'. When his contract was not renewed, Bussoz sold his company and the trademark Aqua-Lung back to the French company.

We now jump forward to 1997, when Aqua Lung acquired Apeks. This British scuba diving manufacturer (founded in 1974) primarily focused on designing and building a range of regulators that perform in all climates.

Just over a decade later, in 2010, Aqua Lung bought Whites Manufacturing - a Canadian drysuit manufacturer.

And so the Aqua Lung group of companies grew - Apeks, Aqua Sphere. La Spirotechnique, Pelagic, Seaquest, Technisub and US Divers - gaining global recognition as the company successfully forayed into several other aquatic equipment markets (including free diving, snorkelling, fitness and competition swimming).

Then on 4th October 2016 a European private equity firm (Montagu Private Equity) announced that it had "entered exclusive negotiations with Air Liquide for the potential acquisition of Aqua Lung".

By now the Aqua Lung group employed 1,000 staff in more than 90 countries across the world, generating approximately €200 million in 2015.

As 2016 came to a close, Air Liquide announced that they had completed the sale of the pioneering firm Aqua Lung to Montagu Private Equity on Friday 30th December 2016.

Whilst the terms of the transaction have not been disclosed, rumours in the industry indicate that the Aqua Lung group was sold for approximately €200 million.

As with all rumours, this figure should be taken with a pinch of salt.

So what can we expect in the future for Aqua Lung? Montagu Private Equity business is to buy other businesses and "maximize investor value". Interpret this statement accordingly. We are all in for an interesting time it would seem.


Press releases from Divers Alert Network (DAN)