Commentary & Analysis
Cloak and Dagger Inks Fight Counterfeiters – June 2015 M&A Activity
Analysis of June 2015 Mergers, Acquisitions & Restructuring in the Printing, Packaging & Related Industries
By Mark R. Hahn
Published: July 14, 2015
Australian company YPB announced that it has acquired California-based printing company, Continuous Forms Control (CFC), to introduce its covert ink compounds into the US market. YPB develops and manufactures unique ingredients that are blended into inks and coatings and that cannot be seen, damaged or removed from the product or package being printed. This effectively creates a specific “product DNA” which forever identifies that product as the genuine article, discernable to anyone with the corresponding handheld scanners programmed to recognize the specific secret compound. The company anticipates that the packaging, fashion label and pharmaceutical sectors will utilize its printing services at the acquired company to combat counterfeiters who will not be able to match the unique chemical markers blended into the inks. The company completes the loop with its Brand Reporter software that enables field agents to use their smart phones to report suspicious items to corporate headquarters, including photos with geo-located tags. YPB’s most recent investor presentation projects revenues in the US to grow to $10 million as CFC incorporates the covert inks into millions of product labels.
In addition to YPB, other acquirers continue to invest in the two basic elements common to all printing, ink and the underlying substrates. Sun Chemical, the world’s largest ink manufacturer, expanded its reach into Southeast Europe, acquiring full control of its joint venture in the region. Epson, manufacturer of inkjet printing devices, acquired Italian company For.Tex which develops, manufactures and sells specialty inks and coatings used to digitally print textiles.
The consolidation of the distribution of printing papers, the most commons printing substrate, continues at a steady pace. Global paper and pulp distributor Central National-Gottesman added another distributor to its network late last month with the purchase of Los Angeles-based Performance Paper. The acquired company was added to its Spicers division which distributes printing papers throughout the western states. This acquisition marks the fifth printing papers distributor that the family-owned Central National-Gottesman company has acquired since 2012, building on the network begun in 1984 when company acquired Lindenmeyr and shortly thereafter bolted on the Munroe company. On a much smaller scale, Mac Papers, a roll-up of mom-and-pop paper distributors in the Southeast, acquired Packaging Professionals in Lewisburg, Tennessee.
Private equity investment firm The Jordan Company added to its investment in the category of plastic printing substrates primarily used in packaging applications. Transilwrap, acquired by The Jordan Company in 2013 (see The Target Report – November 2013), itself acquired Ellis Industrial Packaging, adding to its line of converted films and specialty plastics used in printing and packaging. Sun Capital Partners acquired Canadian paper and packaging company CanAmPac through its portfolio company PaperWorks, adding to its significant investments in the printing, packaging and paper industries. The acquisition includes the Strathcona mill that manufactures paperboard for packaging exclusively using recycled fibers.
Commercial Printing and Document Management
Taylor Corporation emerged as the winning bidder for printing and document management company Standard Register in the 363 sale in bankruptcy with an offer of $307 million. Based on the most recently reported revenues of $904 million, Taylor’s offer equals 34% of trailing revenues, a price higher than the 29% of projected revenues that Quad/Graphics paid for the presumably more financially sound Brown Printing in April 2014. Standard Register filed bankruptcy just this past March, reportedly unable to meet its obligations from the debt incurred with its own acquisition of print management company Workflow One in 2013 (see The Target Report – August 2013). One day after winning Standard Register, Taylor Corporation announced the acquisition of NEPS, a much smaller New Hampshire-based document management company.
Commercial printer Excelsior Printing is closing its printing operations in North Adams, Massachusetts, after 125 years, transitioning the remaining business to Integrity Graphics in Windsor, Connecticut. The venerable printing company operated in a classic New England brick mill building and had been owned by the Crane family since 1970, operating first under the ownership of Crane & Co., manufacturers of specialty papers including for much of the world’s paper currency, then under David Crane since 2008.
Jones Printing in Chattanooga, Tennessee continued the un-rolling of the once acquisitive roll-up Nationwide Argosy, as the management team completed a management buyout, returning the company to its original status as a single stand-alone commercial printing company.
Retail and Display
GSP, a retail display design and production company located in Clearwater, Florida acquired Great Big Pictures in Madison, Wisconsin, adding 80,000 square feet of manufacturing space and expanding to the Midwest. Great Big Pictures specializes in the production of in-store graphics and display.
Privately owned packaging powerhouse Menasha Packaging is back on ourdeal log for the fourth time with an acquisition in the retail display segment, acquiring Portable Packaging in Mississauga, Ontario. Portable Packaging provides design services and pre-packed displays for retailers and consumer goods companies.
Flexible packaging continues to be a very active segment for deals. PE firm Mason Wells acquired Minneapolis-based AWT Labels & Packaging, a producer of flexible packaging, digitally printed labels, and shrink sleeves. Coveris, a portfolio company of Sun Capital Partners based in Chicago announced two acquisitions of flexible packaging companies in June, expanding its presence as a major player in the increasingly global packaging segment, with the acquisition of Elldex Packaging Solutions in New Zealand and the other being Guatemala-based Olefinas which also operates in Mexico. Fortis Solutions Group acquired two label printing companies, Color Craft Label in Memphis, Tennessee and Kopco Graphics in Westchester, Ohio which also produces flexible packaging as well as labels.
The churn in the regional and local newspaper industry continues unabated. Adams Publishing Group was active for the second time this year, acquiring the Southern Maryland Newspapers from Post Community Media, including 13 publications and associated websites. This follows six deals, each involving multiple titles, completed by Adams in 2014. New Media Investment Group announced the acquisition of The Columbus Dispatch in Ohio which ends 110 years of family ownership of the paper and its related publications. New Media now publishes 126 daily publications, in excess of 550 community publications and over 460 related websites.