BUSINESS

Fluidra takes the plunge overseas

Catalan swimming pool manufacturer and water treatment company is looking to Asia and Latin America to offset a tepid domestic market

Fluidra's chief executive officer, Eloi Planes.
Fluidra's chief executive officer, Eloi Planes.

Spanish swimming pool manufacturer Fluidra still has its headquarters in the Catalan city of Sabadell but now 80 percent of its business is located overseas. The purchase earlier this year of the Brazilian company Veico has served as the group's entry into Latin America after establishing itself in North Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Balkans. Of the 41 countries where Fluidra has a presence, those which are performing best are in Asia where revenues in the first half climbed 16.4 percent from the same period a year earlier.

The group's Asian bet had led it to set up a management center in Shanghai and acquire the second of two companies it now owns in China last year. The acquisition has allowed Fluidra to seal two projects valued at a million dollars (752,000 euros) to build two pool areas for the Shangri-La hotel group in resorts in Bali in Indonesia and Manila in the Philippines.

"Asia is working well for us and our presence has been increasing," says the company's chief executive officer, Eloi Planes. "The creation of a structure in Shanghai has allowed us to speed things up in a place where we are moving more in areas such as the water-treatment business, wellness centers and hotels." When entering a region, Fluidra habitually creates a territorial management set-up that brings management closer to the markets being targeted, Planes explains.

Fluidra is aiming for a 25-percent share in Brazil in four years

The company set itself the target of opening up for business in three new countries every two years, although the domestic crisis has led it to speed up its overseas expansion.

Fluidra's business in Spain and southern Europe continues to contract, while in the rest of Europe revenues fell 10 percent in the first half of the year due to poor spring weather.

Fluidra's sales in the first half amounted to 344.9 million euros, down 6.7 percent from a year earlier as its earnings were halved to 10.5 million. "Our idea is to offset the falls domestically with growth overseas," Planes says.

"The weather is an additional factor and this year it has been bad. A part of our sales, the ones made on impulse, depend on the weather. Warm weather encourages customers not only to buy, but also to open the swimming pool and request maintenance," he adds.

The boost to tourism in Spain will also have an impact on Fluidra's business, but not immediately as hotel owners tend to invest once the season has gone well for them, Planes explains. Apart from offsetting weakness in Asia with growth elsewhere, it is also investing in innovation, which receives funding equivalent to 2 percent of sales.

There is one market Fluidra has yet to fully explore: Latin America. Unlike other Spanish companies, it opted to develop first in Asia before turning its attention to Latin America. The acquisition this year of Veico in Brazil opens the world's third-biggest market for swimming pools after the United States and France.

Veico currently has annual revenues of three million euros, and the plan is for it to grow over the next four years to achieve a market share of between 10 and 15 percent, equivalent to 250 million euros.

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