【英语财经】苹果欲巨资收购音响制造商Beats Apple in talks for $3.2bn Beats deal

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2014-5-9 13:03

小艾摘要: Apple is closing in on its largest ever acquisition with the planned $3.2bn purchase of Beats Electronics, the headphone maker and music streaming operator founded by music producer Jimmy Iovine and t ...
Apple in talks for $3.2bn Beats deal
Apple is closing in on its largest ever acquisition with the planned $3.2bn purchase of Beats Electronics, the headphone maker and music streaming operator founded by music producer Jimmy Iovine and the hip-hop star Dr Dre.

The deal could be announced as early as next week, people familiar with the negotiations said, but they cautioned that some details had yet to be agreed and talks could still fall apart.

A deal on the scale being discussed would represent a radical departure for Tim Cook, chief executive of the iPhone maker: under the late Steve Jobs, Apple was reluctant to pursue high-profile acquisitions.

Apple will acquire Beats’ streaming music service, which launched this year, and its audio equipment business, which includes its brand of headphones and audio equipment. The Beats management team will report to Mr Cook, said people familiar with the deal. Apple and Beats declined to comment.

A decade after Mr Jobs transformed the music industry with the iTunes download store and the iPod digital music player, the deal is likely to be seen as an admission that Apple needs to look outside its Cupertino labs to continue making an impact.

While Beats commands a leading position in the premium headphone market, its real value to Apple is in revitalising its “cool” at a time when iTunes has waned in popularity and Samsung’s marketing campaigns have savaged the iPhone’s brand.

Apple executives have admitted that its brand is in need of a revamp. Internal emails released during its recent patent trial with Samsung showed that its marketing chief Phil Schiller considered changing Apple’s ad agency after the success of its Korean rival’s “next big thing” campaign.

Apple is paying a hefty premium for cool: Beats took a $500m investment from Carlyle in September 2013 that valued the company at more than $1bn. “In terms of acquisitions, Apple has been very, very light in their activity,” said Richard Lane, analyst at Moody’s. “I don’t think they’ve spent $1bn in any of the last four years.”

Mr Cook said last month Apple was “on the prowl” for more acquisitions, after buying 24 companies in the past 18 months and he was not averse to large acquisitions.

The Beats move follows a string of high-priced deals in Silicon Valley, after Google acquired smart home developer Nest Labs for $3.2bn and Facebook offered an initial $19bn for WhatsApp Messenger.

One motivation for the Beats deal may lie in shifts in music consumption. Subscription services are the biggest growth area for the music industry, with revenues increasing 50 per cent to $1.1bn in 2013, according to a recent report by the IFPI, the global music industry association.

But downloads fell 2 per cent to $3.93bn – the first annual decline since Apple launched its iTunes store in 2003. iTunes is still the world’s largest music download service.

Apple has dabbled in music streaming but never launched an unlimited subscription service to compete with fast-growing rivals to iTunes such as Spotify.

In 2009 it acquired Lala, a music streaming service, and last year launched iTunes Radio, which competes with elements of Beats, as well as more established players such as Pandora.

Mr Iovine and Dr Dre – real name Andre Young – were inspired to create Beats by the poor sound quality of the headphones bundled with the iPod and iPhone. Beloved by music and sports stars Beats has become a street-smart fashion brand

Ahead of Apple’s expected launch of an ‘iWatch’ accessory, Beats will also give its designers and engineers access to years of experience in what some see as the original “wearable technology”.

Nonetheless, the pricey deal is likely to raise questions about Apple’s internal capability to innovate after the death of Mr Jobs in 2011.

At the end of March, Apple’s global cash pile stood at $133bn, net of the $17bn in debt it raised last year. Since then it has raised a further $12bn, which it said at the time was to help fund its $130bn dividend and share buyback programme. However, most of its funds are held overseas and its domestic cash has fallen by $16bn to $18bn since it resumed paying dividends in 2012.

苹果(Apple)已接近以32亿美元的价格收购Beats Electronics,这将成为该公司历史上规模最大的收购。Beats Electronics是由音乐制作人吉米?艾欧文(Jimmy Iovine)和嘻哈歌手Dr Dre创办的耳机制造商及音乐流媒体运营商。

对相关磋商知情的人士称,该交易最早可能于下周公布,不过他们警告说,目前部分细节仍未敲定,谈判仍有破裂的可能。

这一正在磋商中的交易规模如此之大,或许表明苹果首席执行官蒂姆?库克(Tim Cook)正在考虑激进的战略转向——在已故的史蒂夫?乔布斯(Steve Jobs)当家的时代,苹果很少展开如此大规模的收购。

知情人士称,苹果将收购Beats今年推出的音乐流媒体服务,以及它的音响设备业务——包括该品牌的耳机。收购成功后,Beats团队将向库克汇报。对这一消息,苹果和Beats都拒绝置评。

乔布斯身前以iTunes下载商店和iPod数字化音乐播放器改变了整个音乐产业。外界很可能将十年之后苹果公司展开的这场收购解读为,苹果自己也承认,必须把眼光放在它自己的库比蒂诺实验室之外,才能维持自己的影响力。

尽管Beats在高档耳机市场处于领先地位,但对苹果来说,它真正的价值在于它能再次为苹果带来那种“酷炫”的感觉。苹果iTunes人气最近有所下降,而三星(Samsung)强烈的市场攻势也威胁到苹果的iPhone品牌。

苹果高管曾承认,公司需要重塑品牌形象。苹果最近与三星的专利案庭审中,曾公布多份苹果内部电子邮件。这些邮件显示,在三星的“Next Big Thing”营销战略大获成功后,苹果市场营销总监菲尔?席勒(Phil Schiller)曾考虑更换苹果的广告代理商。

为了这种“酷炫”感,苹果将付出不菲代价:2013年9月,Beats曾从凯雷(Carlyle)获得5亿美元投资,让公司市值高达10亿美元以上。穆迪(Moody's)分析师理查德?莱恩(Richard Lane)表示:“在收购方面,苹果的手笔一直以来都很小。我想过去4年里,从没有哪一年他们在收购上花费过10亿美元。”

上月库克表示,在过去18个月收购24家企业之后,苹果“正在考虑”开展更多收购,并表示他对于大规模收购并不反感。

收购Beats的动机之一可能是人们在音乐消费方式上出现的变化。根据全球音乐产业协会国际唱片业协会(IFPI)最近一份报告,音乐产业内增长最快的是订阅服务,这类服务的营收在2013年增长了50%,达到11亿美元。

而另一方面,音乐下载业务的营收却下跌了2%,至39.3亿美元——这是2003年苹果推出iTunes商店后首次出现年度下跌。目前,iTunes音乐下载服务的规模仍是全球最大的。

苹果也曾试着推出音乐流媒体服务,不过从未推出过不限量的订阅服务。而iTunes的竞争对手,包括快速增长的Spotify,则提供不限量订阅服务。

2009年苹果收购了音乐流媒体服务商Lala。去年苹果还曾推出iTunes Radio,这一服务与Beats旗下的部分业务以及Pandora等其他更为成熟的播放器存在竞争关系。

Beats的耳机等设备,被视作更具初创性的“可穿戴技术”。在苹果为推出“iWatch”智能手表作准备的过程中,它的设计师和工程师也能从Beats的多年经验中获益。

不过,这比高额收购很可能会让人们质疑,在2011年乔布斯去世之后,苹果是否还拥有内部创新能力。

截至3月底,扣除苹果去年筹集的170亿美元债务之后,它在全球持有的现金总额为1330亿美元。自那以来,该公司又筹集了120亿美元,当时该公司表示这笔钱将用于发放红利和股票回购计划——这两项计划总计需要1300亿美元。不过该公司多数资金都放在美国以外。自2012年苹果再次开始发放红利以来,它在美国国内的现金已减少了160亿美元至180亿美元。

译者/简易

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