A legendary business in the field of music is poised to go public, with Steinway Musical Instrument Holdings having filed with the SEC for an IPO. The piano-making specialist has not given an expected share price but is set to join the NYSE under the ticker ticker symbol STWY.
So, is this opportunity music to the ears of investors, or should they look elsewhere for a symphony of success?
What is Steinway?
Founded in 1853, this piano-maker prides itself in being one of the finest manufacturers of luxury instruments in the world. Though the company has been doing its thing for almost 170 years, Steinway is also continually seeking to innovate with products such as self-playing pianos and features such as editing, recording and playback.
Steinway’s pianos are sold through 33 company owned showrooms in North America, Europe and Asia, as well as a network of around 180 experienced dealers that spans the globe.
The company operates in two reporting segments, Piano under the name Steinway & Sons and Band under the name Conn-Selmer. As the names suggest, the former is concerned with the manufacture and sale of pianos under the Steinway, Essex and Boston brands. Band concerns the sale of other high-end brass, woodwind, string and percussive instruments.
IPO is the process that a private company goes through when they want to become public and list on a stock exchange. Check our handy guide to IPOs.
Reasons for IPO
The public listing is a result of a sale by Steinway’s parent company, with the piano-maker itself not set to receive any of the proceeds from the IPO.
The proceeds instead will instead go to the selling stockholder, the billionaire financier and hedge fund manager John Paulson. Paulson currently owns Steinway through its parent company, Paulson & Co.
Steinway’s Business Plan
China is at the centre of Steinway’s plans going forward. As part of general plans to increase worldwide penetration, the company has noticed the East Asian superpower looks like a massive opportunity for growth.
For one thing, the Chinese musical instrument market in general and the piano market in particular have benefited from continued government support for music and the arts. Continued investment in the arts is expected as part of the country’s most recent five-year plan, meaning the largest piano market in the world could be expected to shell out even more on the ivories.
Just to give an idea of scale, an average of around 400,000 pianos were sold a year in China from 2017 to 2020, compared to an average of around 30,000 per year in the United States over the same period. Considering that the bulk of Steinway’s sales are in the Americas at the moment, this represents a great opportunity for international expansion.
Additionally, the company says it will seek to consistently improve its designs, cultivate and nurture innovation, expand its retail showroom footprint, leverage pricing power and reinforce its brand advantage through introducing a greater mix of special, limited-edition and bespoke products.
Here are some of the company’s key financials from 2021:
Net sales: $538.4m – A 29.5% increase.
Net income: $59.3m – A 14.5% increase.
Adjusted EBITDA: $117.5m – A 52.6% increase.
Around 75% of the company’s net sales come through the piano segment of its business. Additionally, sales in the Americas accounted for around 53% of net sales, while just over 28% came from APAC and the remaining roughly 18% stemmed from EMEA.
Steinway’s competitors include:
Kawai Musical Instruments (TYO: 7952)
Yamaha Corp (TYO: 7951)
Roland Corp (TYO: 7944)
Additionally, the company has to compete with luxury goods companies.
The key risks facing Steinway going forwards include the potential loss of interest in classical music and loss of confidence in the Steinway brand.
The company must compete with luxury cars, yachts, jewellery, handbags, travel and other forms of leisure to win the custom of the high-net-worth individuals who make up the bulk of its customer base. As such, continued interest in classical music and classical music education is key.
This can be evidenced by the downturn in sales experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic, when in-person lessons and performances were reduced and demand for classical instruments was therefore diminished.
The company also views maintenance of the Steinway brand as essential to its future success. That means it could face problems from reputational damage caused by the release of poor-quality products or services, as well as general negative PR.
As such, maintaining a strong and innovative roster of products and a highly skilled workforce is key to the future success of the business.
Should You Invest in Steinway?
Steinway is a compelling opportunity. Expansion in China looks like a fantastic opportunity for the business and with its APAC headquarters already operational in Shanghai and showrooms open across the country it is well poised to grow in the market.
Additionally, the company has healthy looking financials having registered strong growth in its most recent financial year. The reliance on high-net-worth customers could also help the business escape the fallout from the escalating cost of living crisis, as the very rich individuals who make up the majority of the businesses customers are fairly immune to such difficulties.
You might expect such businesses to struggle as inflation climbs but iconic brands like Gucci and LVMH seem to have the power to perform well in the face of such difficulties, with their pricing power giving them more leeway than some other businesses.
Steinway certainly seems to have the reputation to maintain a similar immunity, though it is reliant on a certain degree of continued popularity of classical music. As such, the company looks like a solid opportunity.
However, as we don’t yet know the price at which Steinway shares are expected to be sold, it is difficult to give the go ahead on investing in these piano-making specialists.
If you are interested in IPO investing check out our overview of the recent JE Cleantech IPO.