Pioneering pole brand remains in Finnish hands
In a major Finnish business development, the Exel Group has sold what some reports call “its troubled outdoor sports division” to Karhu Sports, a major presence in cross-country skiing equipment. Exel makes poles for trekking, Nordic walking and blading, and for Alpine and Nordic skiing, so the fit is a good one. In fact, it made and marketed the original Nordic Walking pole and was key to growing the sport. The company hired Marko Kantaneva to develop and codify Nordic Walking technique in Europe — and in fact, even introduced the name “Nordic Walking.”
An Exel press release stated: “Karhu Sports, one of the leading Finnish sports equipment manufacturers, will take over the outdoor business, acquire the inventory and order backlog related to the outdoor business through an asset deal. Karhu Sports has a strategic interest in developing the business. The transaction also includes a long-term licensing agreement related to the use of the Exel brand together with other brands such as Nordic Walker and Nordic Blader for selected product groups.”
It is not clear what, if anything, this will mean for Nordic Walking and Nordic Walkers on this side of the pond. Karhu USA once distributed Exel products in this country, but Alpina Sports has been doing so since the first of this year.
Exel’s core business is light and corrosion-free carbon and fiberglass reinforced composites that are used not just for Nordic Walking and other sports poles but as masts and tubes in industrial applications. The sales price was not disclosed. A British trade magazine that covers the plastics and rubber industries reported that the sale “will see Exel write down €7m in its 2008 accounts, taking the business into the red for the year. It is a setback for the company, which was a pioneer in these fields.” Even though the pole division was reportedly operating at a loss, Exel was hardly on the financial ropes, with 2007 sales of €113 million and a €4.2 million profit.