Widex and Sivantos Create WS Audiology, World's Third-Largest Hearing Aid Company
The 'Big Six' are Now the 'Big Five'
28 February 2019
Widex and Sivantos have completed their merger, creating a new global hearing aid company with a new name—WS Audiology. With combined revenues of EUR 1.7 billion ($1.9 billion USD) and more than 10,000 employees in 125 markets, WS Audiology is now the third-largest hearing aid company in the world.
Widex recently moved into new, “green” corporate offices that will now be the Denmark location of WS Audiology’s dual headquarters. The other HQ location is in Singapore.
Widex and Signia hearing aids will continue as the flagship brands of the merged holding company. Other WS Audiology brands include Rexton and Audio Service hearing aids and retail groups operating in North America, Europe and other markets.
A merger of equals
WS Audiology said a new combined corporate management team reflects "a balanced representation from both Sivantos and Widex.”
- Jørgen Jensen, until now CEO of Widex, will head the new company as Chief Executive Officer. Before joining Widex in 2013, he was CEO of Nilfisk-Advance. He previously worked for McKinsey.
- Wolfgang Ollig, former Sivantos CFO, will continue in the same position at the new company. Prior to joining Sivantos in 2016, he was CFO at Hella, a leading automotive supplier, and like Jensen started his career at McKinsey.
- Thomas Ebeling, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Sivantos, has been appointed Chairman of the Board of Directors of WS Audiology.
- Jan Tøpholm, up to now Chairman of Widex, will take on the role as Deputy Chairman.
- Ignacio Martinez, to date CEO of Sivantos, will join the Board of Directors.
- Henrik Bender, until now CFO of Widex, will lead the integration process.
For now, WS Audiology will remain a privately held company owned by the Tøpholm and Westermann families and funds under the management of global investment firm EQT as well as the Strüngmann family.
Scaling up to compete
"This merger gives WS Audiology the scale and innovation capabilities...to excel with best-in-class products and accelerate our shared growth across all our brands," said WS Audiology CEO Jørgen Jensen.
But the company did not disclose plans for possible changes in management or operations, other than to say the strategy is to "accelerate its growth, strengthen its market penetration and enhance efficiencies to enable additional investments in R&D and the supply chain."
The merged company, with dual headquarters in Denmark and Singapore, is now the third-largest supplier in an industry where only five companies currently command more than 80% of the global market for hearing aids. Sonova Group (Phonak and Unitron hearing aids) and Demant A/S (Oticon hearing aids) are the two leaders, while GN Hearing (ReSound hearing aids) and Starkey Hearing Technologies fourth and fifth.
The "Big Five" are profitable global companies that compete intensively with each other to deliver more innovative hearing solutions at the premium end of the market. But they are under increasing pressure to offer lower-priced solutions to the hundreds of millions of consumers in the world with hearing loss who cannot afford hearing aids.
In the U.S., the recently passed OTC Hearing Aid Act will go into effect in 2020 and is designed to lower barriers the barriers to entry and encourage new companies to compete with much more affordable products.