GE Current will acquire Hubbell C&I lighting business including controls

GE Current, a Daintree company, has announced plans to acquire the commercial and industrial (C&I) business of Hubbell Inc. Pending regulatory and governmental approvals, Current will pay $350 million for Hubbell Lighting including all of Hubbell Inc.’s lighting-centric businesses except for Progress Lighting. The companies expect the deal to close early next year, and at least initially each of the two businesses will maintain their individual brands and lighting industry relationships.

The deal will encompass a number of Hubbell Brands including Area Architectural Lighting, Beacon, Litecontrol, Kim, Columbia, Prescolite, Alera, Dual-Lite, Compass, Hubbell Outdoor Lighting, and Hubbell Controls Solutions. All of the included brands have a primary business or C&I focus. Progress Lighting was excluded because of its residential focus that did not align with the Current business. The Hubbell Controls Solutions business includes a variety of connectivity options and also the LED driver business that at one time went by the name Thomas Research Products. The Thomas brand disappeared from our pages in 2017 after a dimming control unit was launched.

The companies share parallel strategies including a decided focus on LED-based solid-state lighting (SSL). Each has invested significantly in advanced SSL products and also in networked controls technologies. Both companies have some involvement in germicidal ultraviolet technology, including disinfection technologies that can be used continuously when people are present. Both companies also have a portfolio of products designed for usage in healthcare scenarios.

Still, the shared vision is strongest across the general lighting business for C&I applications. “Today’s announcement is a win for the industry, combining two leading companies with over 150 years of innovation. We intend to use our combined resources to drive new investments that create solutions for the continuously evolving needs of our customers,” said Manish Bhandari, CEO of Current. “The values and customer-centric culture of the Hubbell C&I lighting business are well aligned with Current. We look forward to welcoming the Hubbell C&I team.”

The fact that Bhandari was quoted was also significant. We wondered if this announcement was truly news of Current growing or rather another acquisition in the SSL space by American Industrial Partners (AIP). We covered the deal back in 2018 when the private equity AIP announced the acquisition of Current from GE. Separately, GE later sold its residential lighting business to Savant.

The announcement made it clear that the businesses would operate somewhat independently, maintaining separate brands and agency networks. But Current said there would be a benefit of a combined distribution footprint. And apparently Bhandari will lead both organizations with a focus primarily on SSL lighting solutions including networked controls. Ultimately, we would clearly expect some integration of operations.

There has been significant change within Current in recent years. CEO Bhandari joined the company just at the end of 2019. In mid-2020, under Bhandari’s leadership, Current sold the CityIQ program to the much smaller Ubicquia. That smart-city-focused deal revealed what was perhaps a move away from Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, but Current maintained a strong footprint in connected SSL. Earlier this year, Current bought Forum Lighting, a company specializing in the indoor architectural space.

From an SSL industry perspective, the deal between Current and Hubbell is part of a continued consolidation. Cooper Lighting became a Signify business unit in the early part of 2020. Those companies continue to operate somewhat independently. But look closely and you will find some products on both websites. Acuity has long been one of the most active players in SSL acquisitions. But in the recent past, most Acuity activity has been focused on IoT and smart buildings. This past summer, Acuity announced the acquisition of IoT and artificial intelligence-focused RockPile.

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