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Vizio just filed to become a public company

An empire built on cheap TVs

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Vizio, a California-based electronics manufacturer known for its inexpensive televisions, has filed to go publicThe Wall Street Journal reports that Vizio plans to raise up to $172.5 million in its initial public offering, though that number sometimes changes significantly as the date of the IPO draws closer. Vizio did not say which exchange it will list itself on, though it plans to use the symbol VZIO.

Founded in 2002, Vizio quickly began peeling away market share from more established competitors by offering good-quality televisions at lower prices than its peers. Its stunt-like pricing continues to this day; last fall, it unveiled a 4K TV starting at $999. Over time, the company has expanded into other product categories, notably audio. But Vizio's forays into other commodity electronics have been less successful — its tablets and laptops appear to be gone from its website, and its all-in-one PC is listed as out of stock.

Consumer electronics manufacturers face brutal competition

More than other public companies, consumer electronics manufacturers often face brutal competition. There's always a younger, hungrier company coming along figuring out how to make commodity hardware cheaper, making profits elusive to nonexistent. (This is an oft-cited reason for why Apple likely abandoned plans to offer a television of its own.) Vizio, of course, exploited this strategy as it built its empire.

Vizio's razor-thin margins are apparent in its IPO filing: the company made a mere $31.4 million in profit on $1.34 billion in revenue for the six-month period that ended June 30th, up from $25.3 million on $1.26 billion from the previous 6-month period. The challenge for the company as it begins meeting with potential shareholders will be convincing them that Vizio isn't as ripe for the disruption as the companies it displaced.

Correction, 7/29: This article has been updated to reflect that Vizio's revenue numbers are taken from the previous two 6-month periods, not the previous two years.