National Post (National Edition)

Peloton buying Precor makes for smoother ride

- TARA LACHAPELLE Tara Lachapelle is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering the business of entertainm­ent and telecommun­ications, as well as broader deals.


At the same time that Peloton Interactiv­e Inc. is racing to keep up with explosive demand fuelled by the pandemic, the maker of stationary bikes is trying to ensure that new coronaviru­s vaccines won't also soon eradicate its growth.

The fitness company announced Monday that it's acquiring rival brand Precor for US$420 million — Peloton's largest purchase yet. The biggest benefits of the deal would seem to be gaining Precor's 625,000 square feet of manufactur­ing space in North Carolina and Washington state as well as its large roster of commercial customers, such as hotels, gyms and apartment buildings.

The first helps to solve Peloton's supply difficulti­es now, while the latter will give it an edge in the postCOVID economy when consumers are no longer forced to exercise at home and avoid travel.

Notably, Peloton was among so-called stay-athome stocks that initially tanked in early November after Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE said their vaccine was more than 90 per cent effective. On Tuesday morning, shares of Peloton surged more than 14 per cent to a new high before falling back slightly; as of Wednesday it had a market value of US$46.6 billion.

In September, Peloton began selling Bike+, a more expensive version of its most popular item, adding the handy ability to swivel the screen for strength workouts off the cardio bike. The demand proved more ferocious than the company anticipate­d, and getting the product from its Asia manufactur­ing facilities to customers has been difficult. It cited port congestion, virus-related warehouse shutdowns and wildfires on the U.S. West Coast as delivery obstacles, which made for some unhappy shoppers tying up its customer service phone lines. Peloton said during its earnings call last month that it had added expedited air shipping from its Taiwanese factories. Even so, chief financial officer Jill Woodworth said at the time that there would be “Bike+ supply constraint­s for the foreseeabl­e future.” With the Precor transactio­n, which Peloton expects to close in early 2021, order fulfilment should improve.

Combining with Precor may seem like a brand mismatch to the cultlike fans of Peloton. One is tired, one is wired. The biggest draw of Peloton relative to other spin bikes is its live and on-demand classes that subscriber­s can join virtually using the monitors affixed to its bikes. But Peloton users can probably admit that the bikes themselves aren't the best. After trying others at a number of boutique spin studios and big-box gyms over the years, it feels fair to say that the Peloton feels a bit less sturdy (though it is convenient­ly slim so as to not take up much space at home). Joining forces with Precor's research and developmen­t team may help lead to an improvemen­t in Peloton products and perhaps a greater variety of them. On Precor's home fitness page, the main photos aren't even bikes — they're elliptical machines.

Precor might just be the workhorse that elevates Peloton from fad spin brand to fitness juggernaut. At nine times revenue, Peloton needed to do something to have any hope of living up to such a wildly rich valuation.

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said reputation will not protect the sport's high-profile athletes from doping raps and warned that it would be harder than ever to get away with taking banned substances at next year's Tokyo Olympics. A host of top athletes, including world 100 meters champion Christian Coleman, have been sanctioned by the Athletics Integrity Unit in recent years as it looks to restore integrity in a sport plagued by doping scandals. “I like to think that it has shown the athletes that we're not fearful of reputation. Where there is an infraction we're not fearful of going: `Oh well that's quite a big name,' ” Coe, who won double Olympic gold over 1,500 meters, told British media. “The AIU is not always going to be on everybody's Christmas card list ... but I do think that it has restored some confidence that we've got an organizati­on that will fearlessly and ruthlessly weed out the cheats.” Coe said improvemen­ts in testing would make it harder than ever for athletes to avoid being caught.

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