For Sergio Vallin of popular Mexican rock band Maná, Fender guitars are the only way to go.
"It's the Rolls-Royce of guitars," Vallin says. "It's versatile, and so easy on the fingers."
A fan of Fender products since his childhood, the 39-year-old guitarist says that he and Fender Musical Instruments are teaming up to develop a signature guitar in his name.
"We've been working on it for a while," Vallin says. "This guitar is going to have a new face and a very Latin flavor."
News of the collaboration between Vallin and Fender comes around the time that the musical instrument company is celebrating its global reach, which includes further expansion into the Latin market. In July, the Fender factory in Ensenada, Mexico, will celebrate its 25th anniversary.
The Baja California location, one of four factories operated by Fender, originally opened with seven employees and now employs hundreds of staffers who help make such popular products as the Stratocaster and the Telecaster.
While labor costs have risen about 20% during the past four years, the company has been able to maintain a steady production pace comparable to manufacturers in Asia, according to a knowledgeable source.
Interest in the Fender brand could help the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company as it prepares to entice new investors. In March, Fender disclosed plans to sell up to $200 million in stock through an initial public offering, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing.
Fender's fiscal 2011 sales reached $700.6 million, up 13% from $617.8 million a year earlier, according to the regulatory filing. Full-year net income was $19 million, compared with a net loss of $1.7 million the previous year.
For the first quarter of fiscal 2012, Fender's sales rose 2% to $173.8 million, while net income fell 72% to $1.9 million, according to the updated filing. It cited higher operating expenses for the weaker profits.
IPOfinancial.com, which tracks new stock issues, says some investors will automatically favor the nostalgic aspects of the company, which has long been associated with rock icons including Eric Clapton, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Holly.
"It's certainly a name that has panache," IPOfinancial president David Menlow says. "It's not a company that needs to have a lot of explanation tied into it."
The company distributes its products in more than 85 countries, with about 43% of net sales in the latest year coming from outside the United States, according to its SEC filing. While the brand enjoys strong name recognition, however, the company lists several risks in its filing, such as difficult economic conditions and financial uncertainty in Europe.
As for Vallin, who has visited Fender's small museum at the Corona, Calif., factory, the company's ties to the Latin community greatly pleases him. "About 70% of employees at the Corona factory are Latino," Vallin says. "People work there for decades, and I think that speaks highly of the company.