LaCie Group S.A.

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LaCie Group S.A.

17 rue Ampere
Telephone: +33 01 69 32 84 00
Fax: +33 01 69 32 83 66
Web site:

Public Company
1989 as Electronique D2
Employees: 341
Sales: EUR 289 million ($310 million) (2005)
Stock Exchanges: Euronext Paris
Ticker Symbol: 5431
NAIC: 334119 Other Computer Peripheral Equipment Manufacturing

LaCie S.A. is a leading developer and manufacturer of computer peripheral equipment, focusing especially on external data storage solutions, as well as display technologies. LaCie produces network drives, hard drives, and other storage drives, including tape-based storage devices, DVD and CD drives and writers, and high-end LCD monitors. The company incorporates high-speed transfer technologies into its devices, supporting USB 2.0, Firewire, SCSI, as well as cutting-edge technologies, such as SATA, introduced in 2005. The development of such high-speed protocols has proved a boon for the company, enabling external peripheralsthe company's core nicheto achieve transfer speeds rivaling those of internal computer components. From its beginnings in a Paris apartment in 1989, LaCie has targeted the international market. As part of that strategy, the company has developed a local presence in Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Sweden, Japan, Hong Kong and China, Singapore, and the United States. Europe remains the group's largest market, at 53 percent of the group's revenues of EUR 289 million ($310 million) in 2005. The Americas account for 44 percent of the company's sales, and its Asian operations contribute just 3 percent. LaCie's growth in the 2000s has accelerated in large part because the company has expanded its product offering from a focus on the professional and corporate markets to target the retail consumer market. LaCie is listed on the Euronext Paris Stock Exchange. Company cofounder and Chairman Philippe Spruch is also its largest shareholder, with nearly 61.5 percent of shares.

External Ideas in the 1980s

Pierre Fournier and Philippe Spruch spotted a niche opportunity in the computer market in the late 1980s. Personal computers had become essential tools in a number of industries, such as the graphic design and nascent multimedia industries. Increases in computer technology, particularly the development of faster processors and more powerful graphics cards, introduced a new range of possibilities for professionals. Yet the advances in technology also created ever-larger file sizes. The relatively modest internal hard drives on most computers proved inadequate for many data storage needs. At the same time, the reliance on personal computers also highlighted the need to safeguard data through the creation of backup copies.

Unlike IBM-based personal computers at the time, Apple computers featured a built-in high-speed interface, called SCSI, to connect peripherals to the computer. Fournier and Spruch recognized the potential of adapting storage devices such as hard drives and tape drives to connect externally via the computer's SCSI port. The SCSI interface offered a second advantage in addition to transfer speed, in that several devices could be chained together to a single computer port. In 1989, the pair founded their own company, Electronique D2, in their apartment in Paris's 14th arrondissement. D2 became one of the first in Europe to exploit this new area of personal computing.

D2 at first focused on designing the cases to house existing drives, meeting with immediate success. By 1990, the company had outgrown its original location, and in that year, the company moved to a 900-square-meter site, still in the city of Paris. The move also accompanied a shift in the group's strategy. Fournier and Spruch understood that, in order to compete in an increasingly global market characterized by rapid technological progress, D2 would have to develop its own technological capacity.

D2 began hiring a team of engineers and building its own research and development team. By 1991, the company had launched its first in-house designed product, an internal SCSI card, bringing the transfer technology to the IBM PC market. Nonetheless, the Apple computer market remained the company's core focus into the mid-1990s.

In the meantime, D2 launched the second prong of its strategy, that of rapid international growth. In this way, the company sought to capitalize on the lack of a strong European player in the external data storage market. By 1991, D2 had opened its first subsidiary, in London. The following year, the company added subsidiaries in Belgium and Denmark.

Another important factor in the company's early success was its commitment to developing not only technologically advanced products, but also to providing its product with strong design features. As part of this effort, the company turned to a number of noted industrial designers, such as Philippe Starck, who helped design a whole line of D2 products in 1992. Neil Poulton became another prominent design partner for the company. The emphasis on design played an important role in the group's success: As external peripherals, the company's products were by nature exposed to view. At the same time, the company's core market of graphic designers and multimedia developers naturally responded to the stylish designs of the group's product range.

Acquiring a New Corporate Identity in the 1990s

D2 attacked a major limitation of IBM and Windows-based personal computers, which often lacked the physical capacity and software resources to house both the traditionally parallel port (used primarily for printers) and a SCSI port. In 1993, D2 released a new interface that housed both parallel and SCSI ports. The company also began work on a new cable to provide similar capability, launching the Shark cable in 1994. The Shark became one of the company's best-selling products into the middle of the decade.

With its European sales growing strongly, D2 moved to still larger premises in the town of Massy, a Parisian suburb, in 1993. The company also continued to expand its international network, adding a subsidiary in Dusseldorf, Germany in 1993, and subsidiaries in The Netherlands and Switzerland in 1994. That year marked the group's transition to an international company, with 50 percent of its sales coming from outside of France.

The company continued its expansion, adding a subsidiary in Milan, Italy, and Madrid, Spain, in 1995. In order to fuel further growth, D2 brought in external investors, selling a 10 percent stake to venture capital group 3i (Investors in Industry) that year. The investment provided D2 with the capital it needed to enter the North American marketplace. By the end of 1995, the company had made its first major acquisition, that of Portland, Oregon-based LaCie, a subsidiary of hard drive manufacturer Quantum. Founded in 1987 and acquired by Quantum in 1992, LaCie had developed a range of products complementary to D2's own line, coupled with a strong brand name and proprietary software technologies. Yet LaCie offered other advantages to D2. The company's relationship with Quantum, a major supplier of drives used in D2's line, enabled D2 to renegotiate its purchasing agreement with Quantum. At the same time, LaCie enjoyed the exclusive rights to develop Apple-branded external hard drives.

The combined company now laid claim to being the largest aftermarket data storage supplier for the Apple computer market. D2 prepared for a new phase of growth, moving to larger headquarters in Massy in 1996. The company then went public, with a listing on the Paris Stock Exchange's "Nouveau Marché" that year.

The public offering helped the company in its next series of investments. In 1997, for example, the company made a brief foray into the after-sales repair and maintenance sector, buying up NATI. That effort proved less successful for the company, and D2 sold off NATI in 1999. In the meantime, D2 added new markets, including Sweden and Canada in 1996, and the launch of an Australian subsidiary in 1999.

By then, the company had decided to regroup its operations under a single brand name, LaCie. The company itself adopted the LaCie brand name in 1998, then opened a communications office in London as part of a worldwide public relations effort. Also in that year, the company acquired another U.S. company, APS.

Company Perspectives:

LaCie has successfully been in business for over 15 years now, and has been able to consistently keep its innovative spiritour expertise and strong teams will keep us moving forward for the next ten years. The years ahead will be Digital; the multimedia world we inhabit is just beginning. The storage needs of professional users will be interspersed with the needs of private users, storage capacity will continue to grow, and network structures will be more and more complex. This is what drives the innovation and richness of our market.

In this fast moving environment, LaCie reaffirms its commitment to create highly functional and aesthetically appealing storage solutions. We are committed to strengthening our position as a leader among multimedia professionals, and being the first with technological and visually innovative solutions.

Data Storage Peripherals Leader in the 2000s

An important factor in LaCie's continuing success was its ability to adapt to the changing computer market. Of importance, the company worked to reduce its reliance on the Apple computer market into the late 1990s, in part to distance itself from Apple's own struggles at the time, but also to take advantage of the surge in the worldwide PC market. The rise of multimedia-equipped computers in the mid-1990s created a new demand for larger and faster data storage solutions. LaCie responded with a number of innovative and highly successful products, such as its external 2.5-inch PocketDrive, launched in 2000. The company also expanded its presence in the high-end professional graphics and corporate markets with the launch of its own high-end flat-panel displays, such as an 18-inch display launched in 2001. LaCie expanded beyond its core European and American markets as well, adding a Japanese subsidiary that year.

The development of a consumer market for high-capacity, high-speed storage devices encouraged LaCie to launch itself into the retail channel for the first time in 2002. Until then, the company's products had been sold through catalogs, or by value-added resellers, and remained geared toward the professional and corporate markets. Yet the consumer market, driven by music and video applications, became one of the data storage market's primary growth drivers. The arrival of new-generation high-capacity drives, as well as the CD writers, followed by DVD writers, opened a new range of possibilities for consumers.

LaCie launched its Big Disk in 2002, an external hard drive featuring 500 gigabytes of capacity. The company also responded to the development of a new generation of high-speed transfer protocols with the launch of its first Triple Interface hard drives, which featured USB 2.0 and Firewire transfer capacity, in addition to standard ATA transfer technology. The company also teamed up with the FA Porsche design team, developing a new line of sleek and sophisticated products.

LaCie continued developing high-capacity storage devices. In 2004, for example, the company launched its Bigger Disk, featuring one terrabyte of storage capacity. Also that year, LaCie teamed up with software developer Roxio to launch a new double-layer DVD burner for the Macintosh market.

More innovative products emerged from LaCie's research and development department in 2005. Among these was the Silverscreen, a mobile hard drive featuring 40 gigabytes of data space and the ability to connect and display video, music, and images directly to a television, without passing through a computer. In October of that year, the company launched another innovation, the Carte Orange USB drive, which, at the size of a credit card, plugged into a computer's USB port, with data storage ranging up to eight gigabytes. The company closed out the year with a new product for the corporate set, a hard drive with fingerprint recognition technology. LaCie stored the secrets of success in the global PC peripherals market.

Principal Subsidiaries

APS Tech (U.S.A.); LaCie Allemagne; LaCie Australia; LaCie Belgique (99.68%); LaCie China; LaCie Hollande; LaCie Italie (99.00%); LaCie Japan; LaCie Ltd. (U.S.A.); LaCie Peripherals (Canada); LaCie Royaume-Uni (99.90%); LaCie S.A.S. (France; 99.99%); LaCie Spain (99.95%); LaCie Sueède; LaCie Suisse.

Principal Competitors

Teradata Corporation; ASUSTeK Computer Inc.; BenQ Corporation; Micron Technology Inc.; Sharp Electronics Corporation; Storage Technology Corporation; Lite-On IT Corporation; Hyperdata; Opengate S.p.A.

Key Dates:

Pierre Fournier and Philippe Spruch found Electronique D2 in Paris in order to develop external data storage systems.
The company launches a research and development team.
The company forms its first foreign subsidiary in London.
Subsidiaries are opened in Belgium and Denmark.
A subsidiary opens in Germany; the company moves to Massy, outside of Paris.
The company acquires LaCie, in Oregon.
A public offering is made on the Paris Stock Exchange's Nouveau Marché.
The company changes its name to LaCie S.A.
A subsidiary in Australia is added.
A Japanese subsidiary is added.
The company begins targeting the consumer retail market for the first time.
The company launches a 500-gigabyte external hard drive.
The company launches a one-terrabyte hard drive.
The company launches a Silverscreen hard drive capable of displaying images directly on a television screen.

Further Reading

Cain, Chris, "LaCie Silverscreen: Portable Hard Disk Which Hooks Up to a TV," Personal Computer World, July 1, 2005, p. 65.

"Electronique D2, stimulant et branché," L'Expansion, July 10, 1997.

"High-Capacity USB Key," Computer Active, October 27, 2005, p. 7.

Joseph, Cliff, "LaCie Safe Mobile Hard Drive: Keep Your Data Safe from Prying Eyes," Personal Computer World, December 1, 2005, p. 52.

"LaCie and Roxio Team Up to Deliver First Mac DVD DL Solution," DVD News, June 2, 2004.

"LaCie Group Appoints New CEO," M2 Presswire, June 15, 1999.

"SUV Space in a Sports Car Body," Computer Gaming World, September 1, 2005.