Axis and Milestone To Remain Independent, Canon Declares

Author: John Honovich, Published on Feb 17, 2015

Hoping, fearing, anticipating a 'Super Avigilon'?

Will Axis and Milestone merge to become an 'end to end' solution?

No, declares Canon.

Inside this note, we share and examine Canon's declaration to IPVM about the future of the two mega video surveillance companies.

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Comments (46)

It could be they want to test the waters first to see how well they can make them work. If it doesn't work out, it's harder to divest and sell them off if they are all rebranded and tightly linked as "Canis Stonus".

If it does work out, it would make sense to then bring them together more tightly.

"with their current management structures in place"

What? Again? Tell it to the Pelco management team.

Well :)

In fairness, surely Canon recognizes things will change over the next few years. Some Axis and Milestone execs will leave (e.g., Fullerton already left). Canon's point appears to be mainly that they are not sacking the management team. Of course, how many leave and what happens when they do leave are all critical questions / concerns.

Like for any acquisition Canon is not going to tell us their real strategy and this for obvious reasons. As I said in another discussion, if they don't change anything then they need 5 to 6 years at the current business level to reimburse themselves and before starting making benefits. That is clearly out of question.

Keeping solutions open is a must-have (at least short to mid term), optimizing to the extreme the integration of both should be a given. What else? Pull-through on the hardware side may be ? thousands of sensors can be interesting and profitable. And owning the full chain is clearly an advantage when you want to support big systems. They are just missing network switches in fact.

Another point is that Canon has a (very?) good service solution in place for their printers so selling sefvices is another possible target for them. When you have good products a service business can be very profitable.

And ultimately keeping everybody in place is just a communication fact, no way it can be the reality. Finance people are going to make sure there are not 2 guys doing the same job in the same region for sure.

"if they don't change anything then they need 5 to 6 years at the current business level to reimburse themselves and before starting making benefits. That is clearly out of question."

Axis generated ~$72 million USD operational cash flow in 2014. Compared to the $2.8 billion USD price tag, how will it only take 5 to 6 years for payback?

"Another point is that Canon has a (very?) good service solution in place for their printers so selling services is another possible target for them"

So they are going to compete with integrators?

Another point is that Canon has a (very?) good service solution in place for their printers so selling sefvices is another possible target for them. When you have good products a service business can be very profitable.

"Hi. I'm your copy machine repairman. Would you like a camera with that toner today?"

No, it's more like, "Oh your CanAxis camera is broken? I can fix that too."

It's funny to think about it but I am skeptical that would happen for a long time, too explosive a move against integrators.

I wouldn't make an automatic assumption about Canon's printer service as a predictor of camera service. Sony has decent service for their general electronics, but their security products operations support department has always been terrible.

I belive that they will eventually (sooner rather than later) merge the two - or at the very least start cross selling and 'solution selling' using components from each company and offering price incentives.

However, when talking with some folks it was mentioned to me that Canon is more of an 'old school' Japanese company that takes a fairly long outlook on the market and earnings. Obviously I don't have any inside information, but maybe there is a long term play here - if so, I don't know what it is.

Ok, so they say they are not merging Axis and Milestone.

But does that mean they are keeping Axis seperate from Canon Security?

Now that's crazy!

So they say. In fairness, Canon surveillance is a much smaller operation. I would think it would be easier logistically to roll Canon surveillance into Axis. That said, I have no idea what they are going to do.

It would be weird to have Canon IP cameras and Canon/Axis IP cameras competing against each other.

It would be weird to have Canon IP cameras and Canon/Axis IP cameras competing against each other.

Whoever gets the better pricing from Milestone would win... ;)

Just got some comments from a connection who was connected with these deals:

  • these deals were pushed highly from the headquarters. Probably because Canon suffers of decline in MFUs and consumer cameras' markets and they see an opportunity in the IP cameras market for them.
  • initially were considered Milestone vs Genetec and Axis vs Avigilon.
  • they have a complete solution in mind but how and when is not clear and there will not be a rush in it.

My guess, at least what makes sense to me, is that Axis and Milestone will be run a seperate business units to "bide time" or (attempt to) not lose current market share, while behind the scenes a lot of R&D and tech work is done to create a "solution" approach that closely and effectively matches Axis' and Milestone's lines.

As a "solution," Axis and Milestone don't really have a UVP. Axis doesn't really do anything terribly unique, and neither does Milestone, though they both have size and quality. Avigilon, the "solution" company that the new Canon subsidiaries are being compared to, on the other hand, has a (somewhat) unique value proposition with their super-high MP cameras. For now, there are too many alternatives to Axis and Milestone that will remain open-platform... pushing Axis and Milestone to be mutually exclusive at this point can only cost them revenue and sales; even if it does create operational efficiencies.

If Canon is smart, they're going to build a solution using Axis camera and Milestone software that gives them some unique advantage (or many unique advantages), whether it's efficiencies in matching the software to the camera exactly, reducing storage requirements somehow, video analytics, or some other sorts of bells and whistles. Then, in a year or two once they're done creating this new line, they'll pop up at ISC West or some likewise large trade show with the new "Super Avigilon" type "solution," probably with their own NVRs (perhaps with integrated POE switches), and either treat the solution company as a third, seperate division or roll Axis and Milestone together into the new behemoth. They've already spent billions on acquiring these two companies... they clearly have the money to wait and be patient, combinbing the two only after creating a "disruptive" product.

Of course, that assumes that Canon is willing/able to become an innovating force in this market...

To be clear, you are one of the very few people who are even speculating that Axis and Milestone would ever even consider becoming 'mutually exclusive'.

That's just not ever happening. In the professional market, solutions mean favoring one's internal lines, not refusing to work with anything but your own.

Btw, Axis has many things that are as 'unique' or more than Avigilon's HD line. Things like their rack mount super encoder chassis, the suicide resistant camera, their app platform with industry-leading 3rd party support, the multi-imager PTZ combo camera, and this is just off the top of my head.

p.s. - you know who makes Avigilon's super high MP lenses? Canon.

"p.s. - you know who makes Avigilon's super high MP lenses? Canon."

This makes me wonder how long that will last.

I'm just trying to find in the current mess what can bring value and interest to these acquisitions. I'm not sure to what you are used to in term of business but this is not every morning that I do see someone putting 3B$ on the table.

John, I made a mistake in my calculation but we can both agree that it would take many years to get a valuable ROI without changing anything.

I also agree with G that most probably they are going to work on something behind the scene to release in 1 to 2 years. But what are they going to do even with a super Avigilon? is it sufficient to justify 3B$ + 2 years development? I personnally doubt it can be the case. So I believe that they have in mind the fact that this new solution is going to drive something else. Hardware pull-thru, services, I don't know, but something else. It is not self sufficient. Just my 2 cents

"John, I made a mistake in my calculation but we can both agree that it would take many years to get a valuable ROI without changing anything."

Sure, we agree. My point was that the status quo is far worse than you originally calculated :)

The big unknown here is what growth rates Canon team has used for estimating Canon's future profits / cash flow.

For example, if one assumes Axis grows at a 20% annual rate for the next 6 years, revenue would triple. Add in some economies / improved margins and you can make the case for ~$400 million annual operational cash flow. Of course, most of us would consider that very optimistic.

Therein lies the problem, if you have trouble making a very optimistic scenario deliver healthy returns, then the deal seems suspect.

To that end, I agree with you, something else has to be planned for the future.

I don't believe Canon, not for one second.

All companies pitch the same "it will be business as usual, nothing will change, blah, blah, blah" song and dance. Then 2 years later (Exacq and TYCO, anyone?) heads start to roll and things start to integrate.

For a while they both will have a little "a Canon Company" under their logos and within a few years, Milestone and Axis will be nothing more than brands inside of Canon Integrated Security...

"Then 2 years later (Exacq and TYCO, anyone?) heads start to roll and things start to integrate."

H, thanks for mentioning the Exacq / Tyco comparison.

Though I think the ultimate outcome will be similar, the Canon / Axis / Milestone might take a lot longer.

Compare to Tyco / Exacq:

  • Tyco Security Products has been in the solution business for a decade (AD cameras + Intellex + SWHouse, etc.). The infrastructure already existed, they just had to slot Exacq in.
  • Tyco just bought one side - Exacq - while continuing to use their own / OEMed IP cameras, making it an easier transition.
  • Axis and Milestone are much bigger than Axis and have far more of their brand and positioning tied into the open platform, making the switchover more painful.

I don't disagree that the 'solution' is coming, I just think all of these factors mean that Canon may very well take it slower than Tyco.

Plus Tyco is just an all around terrible company. They only have one advantage over everyone else and that is size. Other than that they are awful.

Is this not what every company says when they purchase a new company? I worked at a company that purchased a competitor, decided they liked the competitor's business model better, and 6 months after making the "no changes" statement they flushed all of the executive management to replace with the management of the company they just purchased. It's all lip service while they figure things out.

There is zero chance they stay the course. They just paid a ton for both of these companies. To get their return they have to cut operational expenses (to increase margins), adjust the marketing/sales strategy (to increase revenue), create a new market niche, or all of the above.

"Is this not what every company says when they purchase a new company?"

No, Tyco actually admitted they were going to do what they did with Exacq.

From the original 2013 announcement:

"The addition of Exacq to our video portfolio expands our best-in-class video solutions.... Following the acquisition, the company intends to integrate Exacq into its Tyco Security Products business unit."

That said, I concur that Canon will eventually change course, but they are taking a pretty hard public stance to the contrary.

First of all I'd like to point out that we (Veracity) partner with many leading companies, including both Milestone and Axis. However, my view expressed here is a personal one and not based on any discussions with any Axis or Milestone people.

I think the key point is that Canon is a Japanese company. They have a completely different perspective on time scales and return on investment than do US and (most) European companies. They plan strategies for the long haul and invest in long-term research and development. Just take a look at the Canon corporate website and see how they have transformed the company, since it was heavily in debt in the mid-90's, with a decades-spanning phased strategic plan.

The security market is clearly a market that Canon sees as a good long-term bet, so they have acquired two of the leading players and may indeed have their eyes on others too. Just because Tyco/Exacq and Schneider/Pelco have done things differently doesn't have any bearing whatsoever on what Canon will do with Axis and Milestone. Whatever their plan, it will be years in execution.

This 'union' is not unlike Microsoft purchasing technology all ready made and incorporating it into their business model rather than innovating and developing it themselves. The two purchases seem to fit that approach.

It is not surprising nor unusual for business to do that. Makes sense from a business perspective, however could a downside be that the company looses something of their 'edge' in entrepreneurial and creative thinking?

In Canon's case, maybe they are just at the end of line and trying anything to stay afloat?

Just some philosophical thoughts.

I dont think what we are looking at here is the creation of a mega surveillance provider. I think its more of a diversifcation of Canon's business line. A protection of their long term revenues as the camera in your hand business naturally slows down. Personally i think its a good thing, Canon is a stable company and sometimes you need to mix things up a bit to make change. I can't see them joining the companies, they dont need to.

I fully agree with Alastair and this is definitely the japanese dimension that makes me thinking there is a link with their sensor business. New patents came in 2014, they showed recently a 120Mpxl sensor and in parallel their camera (in the sense of private camera to do photo) business is declining. There are even rumors of the Canon camera divison using Sony sensors instead of Canon. Is the video surveillance market a solution to partially save the sensor production? Maybe

That's like Nike buying a rubber tree plantation and a sweat shop facility and saying they're going to remain independent.

I don't believe that Canon is going to run these two companies separatly and continue to toe the line of Open Platform! Canon is gearing up to give software away to buy hardware just like Avigilon. The advantage for Canon is Milestone is a much better platform than Avigilon and Axis is a much better camera offering than Avigilon.

Let the games begin.

If I understand the deals correctly Canon also owns the technology behind each. The benefit here may be that Canon can take these technologies and bring a new end to end solution to the market under a different name. They keep each company independent and gain the profits from the exisitng client base and company strucuture. Canon bought two strong P&Ls while offering a new end to end solution and creating another revenue stream.

...or the investment bankers are architecting something we will never understand.....

Good info and all one can think from Canon's statement - did Canon buy both Axis and Milestone just to keep someone else from buying them, is that really just the motive. Only time will tell...

Folks, having worked at the top of a Japanese company as well as experienced their behavior within a merger, I can assure you that over a short time the two entities will be consolidated. Finance rules in Japan and they will inevitably seek the purge of redundant management followed by consolidation of office space, combination of sales teams, and overall headcount reduction. Sales per head is a key metric.

Please recall the Schneider takeover of Pelco where similar claims were made. The trust issues will emerge in the market and some good local management ( expecially at the top ) will be replaced with Japanese ex-pats.

Well, on the other hand, Canon has been true to its word regarding the acquisition of Milestone.

After more than 7 months of being made part of the Canon family, what changes did Canon make? Any major cost reductions or de-duplication? Fired the reps? Anything else?

Perhaps they have been pursuing Axis all along and were waiting til the dust settled to rapidly instantiate the final structure..

But maybe instead of using a high-speed blender, they are planning to use slow-cook crock pot...

Hopefully the crock pot will have WiFi - as discussed here -

Why should we trust Canon to make truthful claims?

Why do you trust anyone?

Because of past performance, no? As far as Canon's promises about keeping Milestone independent go, so far so good.

Ok, its only been 7 months, but you think there would be some signs by now, if the intention was some sort of Al "Chainsaw" Dunlop strategy, no?

But let's look at one of their earlier acqusitions, the 2009 billion dollar acquisition of Oce, the biggest printer maker in Europe at the time. Mind you, printers is core business of Canon's, and no doubt they could have assimlated the assets whole and digested them with little more than a loud burp. Canon said this at the time:

In order to create optimal scale in the right segments, the Océ division will report (managerial and financially) to the Canon Board and will lead the R&D and manufacturing for its businesses. Furthermore, Océ's headquarters, combining R&D, production and sales functions, is expected to play an integral role for Canon's European regional operations, one of Canon's key bases within its Three Regional Headquarters vision. The current Management Board and key management of Océ will remain in place. In the Océ division, the strong Océ brand name will be maintained and will be applied in all relevant markets.

6 years later, Oce still has not been consumed by its acquirer, who appears to have retained Oce's identity, even while clearly being accepted into the Canon.

So there is some reason to believe them, what are your reasons for not trusting them?

You say, "Oce still has not been consumed by its acquirer."

From the initial announcement:

"The company will combine Oce’s sales and marketing units with its own business, the executive said today."

From a 2012 newspaper:

"Oce North America Inc., the Trumbull-based servicer of printers and copiers, will lose 135 jobs in Connecticut as a result of consolidations taking place three years after being acquired by a Japanese company."

Well, they still operate as Oce. The brand is still intact. The CEO hasn't left.

Yes, I'm sure they have done some consolidation, but as you point out they stated that in their initial announcement, so that's to their credit, no?

So the bigger point would be, does this or other recent acquisitions show them to be untrustworthy in the statements regarding future plans?

Do you think they were in this case?

I am not claiming Canon is 'untrustworthy' so your question / implication is invalid.

My point is that whatever Canon's strategy is today, they are going to be disappointed in the financial results if they do not pursue some sort of cross-selling / merging of Axis and Milestone.

That said, why would they or anyone kill the Axis brand? It's silly to even suggest that as a point in favor of Canon. The Axis brand is worth hundreds of millions (or more) on its own so whatever operational or selling changes they might eventually make would most certainly come with retaining the Axis brand.

Can anyone explain this anti-American paragraph in the Canon press release?

...any purported tender of shares made by a person located in the United States or any agent fiduciary or other intermediary acting on a non-discretionary basis for a principal giving instructions from within the United States will be invalid and will not be accepted. Each holder of shares participating in the Offer will represent that it is not a U.S. person, is not located in the United States and is not participating in such Offer from the United States or that it is acting on a non-discretionary basis for a principal that is not a U.S. person, that is located outside the United States and that is not giving an order to participate in such offer from the United States.

This seems overkill even for legalese. Wonder what issue they are trying to avoid by not purchasing any stock from U.S. people? Someone should buy a share of AXIS and refuse to sell until the tender, just to see what happens...

This might be irrelevant, but I find it interesting that Canon Europe bought Milestone whereas Canon Inc. (i.e. the headquarters in Japan) bought Axis. Those two Canons operate largely separately, which could potentially pose an additional hurdle to any integration of Milestone, Axis, and whatever they would want to salvage of Canon's IP camera offerings.

Couldn't Canon just come out with a product/brand that combines Milestone and Axis under one umbrella while maintaining those brands separately as well? That way they still maintain "independence" of the Axis and Milestone brands, but can start to bundle their product?

I just attended the Milestone MIPS conference in Las Vegas last week a few interesting things occured. First no Canon people were there except a few local Canon sales people attending to their booth.

From the start to the finish of this conference it was very heavily sold that Milestone is going to continue to be an open platform VMS and is not going to change this strategy what so ever.

Thanks for the feedback.

I am sure given the Canon / Axis offer and all the industry talk that it was decided to keep the senior Canon people far away.

As for Milestone 'not going to change this strategy what so ever', keep in mind, it's not Milestone's decision.

If Canon buys Axis, then an access control manufacturer and wants to integrate all 3, that will surely be Canon's call, regardless of what Milestone prefers.

I'm not sure Lars is on board 100% with the Axis acquisition:

People have asked me about Canon’s offer to buy Axis. This is something, of course, that is possible but it is an offer, not a purchase yet,” he told attendees. “I want to keep the focus here at MIPS on you our partners and not on Canon and Axis. They are great partners of ours, but I do not want to add to speculation and I want to close that discussion as of now.” MIPS conference

Although it mostly can be explained away as a cheerleading move, it is unusual to see a CEO of a subsidiary subtly emphasizing the fact that it is not a 'done deal'. Maybe Lars is looking to get some face time with the 58th most powerful person in the world*, Fujio Mitarai.

*2009

My interpretation is that he is downplaying it to make the other camera vendors in attendance and integrators who use other cameras more comfortable.

He certainly knows that Axis' board has already unanimously recommended the offer, making it more likely to be a formality for the deal to close.

On the other hand, he's not lying here :), he's just being crafty.

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