* Ends talks to sell itself and band instrument business
* Says current strategic plan delivers more value
* Still in talks to sell Steinway Hall leasehold interest
By Greg Roumeliotis
NEW YORK, Dec 26 (Reuters) - Steinway Musical Instruments Inc, the famous manufacturer of pianos, saxophones and trumpets, said on Wednesday it had decided not to sell itself following a 17-month-long exploration of strategic alternatives.
An American icon synonymous with handmade grand pianos, Steinway has struggled to keep its production margins competitive amid stagnant sales, and has seen its shares plunge 10 percent year-to-date. Still, its third-quarter earnings last month offered signs that cost-cutting was paying off.
In a statement on Wednesday, Steinway said it had received several non-binding indications of interest in buying the company, following talks with other companies in the sector as well as private equity, yet these did not offer more value than its own strategic plan.
“We will continue to focus management’s efforts on execution of that plan and we look forward to a prosperous 2013,” Steinway CEO Michael Sweeney said in the statement.
An in-principle agreement to sell its band instrument division to an investor group led by two of its board members, Dana Messina and John Stoner, was also scrapped in light of the current operating performance of the band division, Steinway said.
In July 2011, Messina, Stoner and other members of management made an offer for Steinway’s band instrument and online music divisions, prompting the company to set up a special committee in order to assess it.
Later that month, Steinway asked investment bank Allen & Company LLC to a assist the special committee on exploring strategic alternatives that could also include selling the whole company outright to other interested parties.
By October 2011, Messina had stepped down as CEO of the company after 15 years at the helm to pursue his bid, yet he remained a board member. He was replaced by Sweeney, a chairman of the board of Star Tribune Media Holdings and a former president of Starbucks Coffee Company (UK) Ltd.
Steinway said on Wednesday that it was continuing a separate process to sell its leasehold interest in New York’s Steinway Hall building, situated on Manhattan’s 57th Street, and was in talks with several parties.
According to its website, Steinway & Sons, the company’s piano unit, opened the first Steinway Hall on 14th Street in Manhattan in 1866.
With a main auditorium of 2,000 seats, it became New York City’s artistic and cultural center, housing the New York Philharmonic until Carnegie Hall opened in 1891. These days, Steinway Hall is a showroom for the company’s instruments.
The Waltham, Massachusetts-based company’s pianos have been used by legendary artists such as Cole Porter and Sergei Rachmaninoff and by contemporary ones like Chinese concert pianist Lang Lang.