Cruising World - - Underway - —David Sch­midt

Merg­ers and ac­qui­si­tions aren’t new in the busi­ness world, but they are pos­ing some in­ter­est­ing ques­tions to nav­i­ga­tors as the world’s two big­gest elec­tronic cartography man­u­fac­tur­ers — C-map and Navion­ics — have both been ac­quired by larger marine-elec­tron­ics com­pa­nies in re­cent years, po­ten­tially herald­ing a new era of in­creased in­no­va­tion for end users while also po­ten­tially el­e­vat­ing the ta­ble stakes for marine-elec­tron­ics man­u­fac­tur­ers.

Some back story. In March 2016, Jeppe­sen (a Boe­ing sub­sidiary) sold C-map, its marine cartography busi­ness, to Dig­i­tal Marine So­lu­tions, which is owned by the Swedish­flagged Al­tor Eq­uity Part­ners, a pri­vate-eq­uity firm that also owns Nav­ico, the par­ent com­pany of the B&G, Lowrance and Sim­rad brands. While this ac­qui­si­tion put C-map un­der Al­tor’s roof, Nav­ico and C-map con­tin­ued to op­er­ate as in­de­pen­dent com­pa­nies for the next two-plus years.

Flash for­ward to Oc­to­ber 2017, when news broke that Garmin had ac­quired Navion­ics, with the in­ten­tion of (even­tu­ally) blend­ing Navion­ics’ data with its pro­pri­etary Bluechart Mo­bile cartography, which are still the only charts that can be used on Garmin plot­ters. While this news ini­tially fore­shad­owed a fresh round of chart plot­ter wars, Garmin was crys­tal clear that it would re­tain the Navion­ics brand and con­tinue sup­port­ing its cartography for cus­tomers us­ing non-garmin plat­forms, much like it does with its Fu­sion En­ter­tain­ment brand of marine stereos that play nicely with all third-party mul­ti­func­tion de­vices. “Garmin in­tends to con­tinue to fully sup­port Navion­ics charts for other brands,” says Dave Dunn, Garmin’s di­rec­tor of sales and mar­ket­ing for marine. “We have no in­ten­tion of mak­ing Navion­ics pro­pri­etary to Garmin, and we in­tend to in­vest sig­nif­i­cantly in Navion­ics to en­sure it re­mains the in­dus­try-lead­ing choice for elec­tronic marine chart­ing.”

The story took a new twist in early July 2018, when it was an­nounced that Al­tor would merge C-map with Nav­ico, for­mally bring­ing this cartography brand un­der the same man­age­ment as its pop­u­lar B&G, Lowrance and Sim­rad la­bels. “This merger will al­low us to bring in­no­va­tive and ex­cit­ing so­lu­tions to mar­ket at an ac­cel­er­ated pace, all of which will greatly ben­e­fit the con­sumer,” says Leif Ot­tos­son, CEO of the Nav­ico Group. “We’re plan­ning to in­tro­duce a num­ber of new fea­tures that we will make avail­able to all C-map OEMS.”

Here, it’s im­por­tant to note that Nav­ico — much like Garmin and Navion­ics — has no plans to make C-map charts (or even fea­ture sets) pro­pri­etary to its hard­ware plat­forms. “C-map will con­tinue to sup­ply Nav­ico com­peti­tors, such as Ray­ma­rine and Fu­runo,” says Ot­tos­son.

While these changes could po­ten­tially stiffen mar­ket com­pe­ti­tion for marine-elec­tron­ics man­u­fac­tur­ers that don’t pro­duce and sup­port their own in-house cartography, the fore­cast — as of this writ­ing — is pos­i­tive for nav­i­ga­tors. “The changes we are see­ing in cartography are mak­ing it eas­ier for us to pro­vide in­no­va­tive elec­tron­ics so­lu­tions along with trusted map­ping sys­tems to our cus­tomers,” says Cristina Kochevar, West Marine’s cat­e­gory man­ager for elec­tron­ics.

Mov­ing for­ward, it will be in­ter­est­ing to see what in­no­va­tions are un­furled, the ben­e­fits they pro­vide, and how these merg­ers and ac­qui­si­tions af­fect the marine-elec­tron­ics land­scape.

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