Audio firm Harman aims for sales boost, new deals after Samsung takeover

By Douglas Busvine and Eric Auchard

BERLIN (Reuters) – Audio specialist Harman International wants to nearly treble annual sales by 2025 by partnering with tech groups such as Amazon <AMZN.O>, Google <GOOGL.O> and Microsoft <MSFT.O>, as well as its new owner, Samsung <005930.KS>, its chief executive said on Friday.

CEO Dinesh Palliwal, in an interview at the IFA consumer electronics fair, said he had set an internal goal to make Harman a $20 billion business within eight years, up from around $7.3 billion currently, through a mix of internal growth and bolt-on deals.

He declined to name specific targets but said that acquisitions could come in the fields of artificial intelligence, voice recognition, machine learning and the internet of things.

The aim is to expand the three parts of its business: consumer and professional audio products, along with its biggest operation, automotive audio and parts supply.

Six months after Harman was acquired for $8 billion by Samsung Electronics – the largest overseas deal ever for the South Korean group – Palliwal said his firm would retain a distinct strategy and a strong measure of independence from the parent.

This week Harman introduced in Berlin new audio speakers that talk to Google <GOOGL.O> Home and Amazon <AMZN.O> Alexa, the top voice-controlled digital assistants on the market. Harman is also demonstrating speakers that can be run by voice commands from Microsoft’s <MSFT.O> forthcoming Cortana assistant that are set to be released later this year.

“What is the long-term strategy? To continue to be agnostic; to provide excellent product,” Palliwal said. “People want choice and they do not want to sacrifice the quality of sound. This is where Harman comes in.”

Such voice-activated products – which can steer music systems, dim the lights, tell jokes or activate a security system – hook up their owners to the so-called internet of things without them having to type instructions on a smartphone or a computer keyboard.

Harman is also working to provide Samsung’s digital assistant, Bixby, with “the world’s best, enabled, smart, intelligent speaker,” Palliwal said, “but it won’t replace the others,” he said, referring to working with rivals such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft.

(Reporting by Douglas Busvine and Eric Auchard in Berlin. Editing by Jane Merriman)