Acuity Brands just acquired Quebec-based Distech Controls, a maker of energy management and building controls, for approximately $252 million, adding yet another company to its stable of firms working in the lighting and building automation field, according to a release.
Distech Controls had revenue of more than $56 million in 2014. The Atlanta-based Acuity had 2014 net sales of $2.4 billion with net income of $176 million and a market cap of $6.7 billion.
Way back in 2009, Acuity bought Sensor Switch, based in Wallingford, Conn., a maker of motion-controlled and programmable sensors, for about $205 million. Acuity Brands also bought Glendale, Calif.-based Lighting Control and Design, a maker of light-dimming devices, digital thermostats and related software. Adura Technologies, a startup in the networked lighting space, was acquired by Acuity Brands in 2013. Adura was founded in 2005 and raised about $25.5 million from investors including NGEN Partners, VantagePoint Capital Partners and Claremont Creek Ventures. Acuity also purchased eldoLED, a maker of LED driver electronics, in 2013.
Acuity now has about 15 brands under its roof, all involved in some aspect of the lighting ecosystem.
As GTM's Jeff St. John has reported, only a small fraction of buildings now have smart lighting systems installed, making it a potentially wide-open market for startups, as well as lighting giants like Philips, which estimates the global lighting market at $75 billion and growing at a rapid clip. The market for wireless and wired lighting, along with the array of sensors that check for daylight, occupancy, temperature and other key variables, could add up to a $15 billion to $20 billion industry over the coming decade or so, research predicts.
Other networked lighting startups include Daintree Networks and Digital Lumens, an integrator of LED lights and control systems for warehouse and industrial clients. There does seem to be a robust M&A pipeline in the lighting market, a big plus for these startups.
St. John has suggested that the "residential lighting sector is a tougher nut to crack, given that the average homeowner’s lighting bill is too small to matter. Still, we’ve seen wireless residential smart lighting systems being rolled out by firms including GreenWave Reality and NXP or Google and Lighting Sciences." Redwood Systems, a networking lighting startup that controls lights and building sensors over Ethernet cable, was acquired by CommScope, a business partner, for an undisclosed price in 2013.
Wally Hunter, managing director at EnerTech Capital, called the Distech acquisition a "great exit" for his investment firm and its co-investors FTQ, EDC and Caisse.