Fluidra sees further sales growth in 2021 after boom year for pools

BARCELONA, Dec 16 (Reuters) - After a boom year for the swimming pool industry, Spain’s Fluidra expects sales to slow slightly in 2021, but still grow more than 5% as the cocooning-at-home trend prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic is sustained.

Chief Executive Officer Bruce Brooks also said ahead-of-schedule debt reduction will accelerate a search for merger and acquisition opportunities, mainly in the United States, by the world’s largest swimming pool equipment maker.

“Beyond 2021 there’s a long-term trend to have some level of work from home, less travel, (moving) from the city to the suburbs. These things favour making your home an oasis, which is good for the pool industry,” Brooks told Reuters.

He did not expect vaccination against COVID-19 to dramatically change this trend.

Pool manufacturing and maintenance was among the few sectors to receive a boost from the pandemic as more people have chosen to splash at home, avoiding community pools and beaches.

Fluidra’s January-September net profit more than tripled from a year ago, to 77 million euros ($93.56 million), while net debt in September fell 25% to 584 million euros.

Its shares have soared 54% so far this year, prompting speculation the Barcelona-based company could eventually enter Spain’s Ibex-35 blue-chip index.

“We believe there is still room to continue to grow,” Brooks said, projecting earnings and the stock price to keep rising.

Full-year 2020 sales growth could exceed 7.5% registered in January-September, and next year should still outperform a projected 5% average market growth, he said.

Before the Northern Hemisphere’s summer, the pool sector scrambled to meet the unexpected spike in demand.

Brooks said many of its providers were fully booked until next July and some for all of 2021, but he insisted Fluidra was now in a good position to handle the growing demand and to keep benefiting from it.

“The more pools that are built drives growth to the overall industry because you need to take care of the pool once you have installed it,” he said. ($1 = 0.8230 euros) (Reporting by Joan Faus, editing by Andrei Khalip and Catherine Evans)