Lukas Braunschweiler, CEO
Hartwig Grevener, Chief Financial Officer
Claude Diversi, GVP, Hearing Instruments Wholesale
Hansjürg Emch, GVP, Medical
Martin Grieder, GVP, Phonak
Jan Metzdorff, GVP, Unitron
Franz Petermann, GVP, Connect Hearing Group
Andi Vonlathen, GVP, Research and Development
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 10,894
GLOBAL HEADQUARTERS: Stäfa, Switzerland
Whatever on Earth would Sting, Tina Turner, Christoph Waltz, Kate Moss, and Bryan Adams have in common? (Apart from being celebrity performers, of course.)
They’re a portion of the more than 90 celebrity ambassadors to Sonova Holding AG’s “Hear the World” Foundation, a non-profit initiative aimed at helping disadvantaged people with hearing loss by providing financial support, hearing aids, and professional expertise. Responsible for over 70 projects since its inception in 2006, the foundation (whose administrative expenses are paid for by Sonova) has helped thousands around the globe overcome the disadvantages resulting from hearing loss. In fact, in the 2015/16 fiscal year, the foundation has donated, fitted, and provided follow-up care for 1,000 hearing aids to provide the gift of hearing to more than 500 children.
Posing with one hand cupped over the ear—the iconic “Hear the World” pose—the Foundation was awarded the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest photographic awareness campaign in 2015. But words don’t nearly do the movement enough justice compared to the accounts of volunteers on the front lines of the movement.
“This is a fantastic experience,” remarked a member of the Phonak (a Sonova subsidiary) pediatric audiology team during a mission to Yerevan, Armenia. “The audiologists on the ground here only have very modest equipment, but they achieve so much with it. They give high priority to speech and music therapy. We’re getting to know children who have developed very well in spite of profound hearing loss.”
A new addition to MPO’s Top 30 list, Sonova is a holdings company divided into five business brands: Phonak, Unitron, Hansaton, Advanced Bionics (AB), and Connect Hearing. Each of these companies represent Sonova’s two business segments: hearing instruments, and cochlear implants and accessories. Phonak specializes in the production of digital hearing aids and complementary wireless communication systems, and Unitron and Hansaton are also hearing aid manufacturers. AB develops advanced cochlear implant systems and technologies, and Connect Hearing offers hearing testing and clinical evaluation to determine the optimal hearing solution for each patient.
Sonova’s total revenue for fiscal year 2015/16 (which ended March 31, 2016) was 2.07 billion Swiss francs ($2.14 billion). This represented a 1.8 percent increase from the prior fiscal year’s 2.03 billion Swiss francs. By region, Sonova experienced the strongest growth in the Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) and Asia/Pacific (APAC) regions. With net sales of 883 million Swiss francs in fiscal 2015, the EMEA region ballooned 7.2 percent from FY14, which accounted for 43 percent of Sonova’s total revenue. This comes as somewhat of a surprise, considering the company’s German hearing instruments wholesales business declined in 2015. Mostly responsible for the upswing was an “expected headwind” in the independent channel following announcement of a new German retail strategy in March 2015, combined with Sonova’s acquisition of Hansaton in April 2015.
The APAC region’s 2015 revenue of 224 million Swiss francs was an even more dramatic increase of 13.3 percent from 2014, which represented 11 percent of the company’s total net sales. That’s not to say that U.S. sales tanked—the country generated sales of 786 million Swiss francs, which was 37 percent of Sonova’s total revenue and a 1.3 percent increase from fiscal 2014.
Sonova’s hearing instruments division (comprised of premium, advanced, and standard hearing instruments, as well as wireless communication systems) was its most diverse and profitable business in fiscal 2015/16 with total sales of 1.88 billion Swiss francs. Hearing instruments sales, which accounted for a 91 percent share of total company revenue, experienced a 2.4 percent increase from 2014. The majority of this growth was a direct result of the April 2015 Hansaton purchase, as well as positive market response to 2014’s launch of the Phonak Audéo V Receiver-in-Canal. Due to Sonova’s acquisition of Comfort Audio, sales of wireless communication systems grew 10 percent from 2014.
Sonova’s growth in its hearing instruments business was partially offset (though not nearly enough to mark a decline in total revenue) by a 3.7 percent decline in cochlear implants and accessories division sales (187 million Swiss francs). The new systems’ inability to compensate for lower upgrade sales to exiting users and a decline in U.S. sales were the main contributors to the overall loss.
As mentioned several times already, Sonova’s only real acquisition of note was Hansaton Akustik GmbH, a Germany-based wholesale hearing aid company that generated 42 million in sales in 2014. This added another strong hearing aid company to Sonova’s portfolio of Phonak and Unitron hearing care; the family-owned firm was founded in 1957, and owns centers in Germany, France, and the United States. Sonova’s product introductions were also fairly light for fiscal year 2015/16. Sonova subsidiary Advanced Bionics received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval in August 2015 for two new cochlear implant sound processors: the Naída CI Q90 and Q30. The Q Series uses Phonak’s Binaural VoiceStream Technology to improve hearing in challenging settings by blocking obtrusive sounds like wind and echoes.
Finally, at the tail end of fiscal year 2015/16, (the news came out on March 31), Sonova announced restructuring changes for its executive board. Effective April 1, the management board’s size was reduced from 13 to 10 members. The three hearing instruments wholesale regions of Americas, Europe, and Asia were grouped into a “Hearing Instruments—Wholesale” group. Vice President Wholesale Europe & South America Claude Diversi assumed global responsibility for wholesale of Phonak, Unitron, and Hansaton.