Photo courtesy of Fluidra.
Fluidra employees more than 300 at its manufacturing facility in Carlsbad

Photo courtesy of Fluidra. Fluidra employees more than 300 at its manufacturing facility in Carlsbad

Carlsbad-based Fluidra resumed its acquisition spree with the $240 million purchase earlier this month of S.R. Smith, an Oregon-based swimming pool equipment manufacturer.

The deal, announced Sept. 1, solidifies Fluidra’s position as one of the dominant players in the booming ($4 billion in annual sales) U.S. pool and spa equipment industry.


Amid the worldwide pandemic, business is actually going swimmingly for companies in the pool industry – and Fluidra has been on a tear, swallowing up competitors as it continues to grow its increasingly diverse portfolio of pool-related brands.

 
According to the most recent statistics, more than 10 million American homes now sport pools – and Fluidra, the world’s second-largest pool equipment manufacturer, is clearly riding the new wave of aquatic enthusiasm. The company’s U.S. manufacturing facility, located in Carlsbad on Whiptail Loop, employs 320 – and garners glowing reviews on Glassdoor.


Vibrant Workplace


“We’ve got a vibrant workplace and great company culture,” said the company’s North American president, Troy Franzen. “We’ve got pool tables, a gym, fun events for our employees. People really love working here.”


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Troy Franzen President Fluidra NA

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Rich Laitta CEO S.R. Smith

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Bruce Brooks CEO Fluidra

Since Fluidra North America, formerly known as Zodiac Pool Systems, relocated to Carlsbad from Vista in 2018, the company has actually made three major acquisitions. Earlier this year, Fluidra spent almost $250 million to acquire Custom Molded Products, a Georgia-based company specializing in pool and spa sanitation products.


Franzen confirmed the S.R. Smith deal is expected to be cash EPS accretive in 2021. As a result, the company has raised its 2021 guidance, with sales growth now expected to increase an additional 5% − and cash EPS projected to grow about 3%.


The deal calls for S.R. Smith to continue operating independently under its current brand, manufacturing pool accessories like slides, ladders, diving boards and handicapped accessibility equipment.


“We are excited to join the Fluidra family,” said Rich Laitta, CEO at S.R. Smith. “With their strong dedication to meeting customer needs, focus on innovative solutions and services, and global market expertise, we believe this move will facilitate the next evolution of growth for us.”


Franzen agreed. “We are extremely excited to have S.R. Smith as part of the growing Fluidra family,” he said.

 
Franzen describes Fluidra’s mission as “creating that perfect pool experience” for its customers.


An Illinois native, Franzen has been with Fluidra for 11 years. Before diving into the pool business, he spent 22 years working at Black & Decker.


“The pool industry has definitely been on the right side of the impacts caused by the pandemic,” Franzen said. “With people working from home and migrating more and more to the suburbs, they have really found enjoyment in their backyards.”


Franzen reported new backyard pool construction has notched 20 percent annual growth rates over the past two years. “We were already experiencing quite a bit of organic market share growth leading up to 2020 and the start of the pandemic,” he added.


Spurred Hiring


The growth has spurred the hiring of 50 new workers this year at the company’s 150,000-square-foot Carlsbad facility, which employees 320 and includes a 70,000-square-foot test lab.


“We really believe in this community and are heavily invested here,” Franzen said.


Headquartered in Barcelona and listed on the Madrid exchange, the company’s stock (FDR.MC) has more than doubled over the past year.


“Our ultimate goal is to be the best partner in the industry for our customers,” said Bruce Brooks, CEO at Fluidra. “In the past year, we’ve doubled down on our commitment to grow in different market segments and product categories. This latest acquisition of S.R. Smith doesn’t just move us one step closer, it propels us.”


Doubling down on his CEO’s enthusiasm − and the equity market’s embrace of the company − Franzen added: “Our revenues are going to be significantly higher in 2021. We’ve doubled our business in the last couple of years and plan to double again in the next few years.”


Fluidra
FOUNDED: Fluidra was founded in 1969 by four Spanish families. The company went public seven years ago.
CEO: Bruce Brooks
GLOBAL HEADQUARTERS: Barcelona, Spain
NORTH AMERICAN HEADQUARTER: Carlsbad
BUSINESS: Pool equipment manufacturer
STOCK: On Spanish BME under ticker FDR.MC
REVENUES: Roughly $1.5 billion in 2020
NORTH AMERICAN EMPLOYEES: 1,000

WEBSITE: https://www.fluidrausa.com/en
NOTABLE: Fluidra traces its roots to 1909 and the founding of the original Zodiac inflatable boat. (Fluidra merged with Zodiac Pool Systems in July 2018.)