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Punch Signs Agreement to Buy Xeikon, Plans to Keep 235 Employees

Press release from the issuing company

St-Martens-Latem, Belgium, March 8, 2002 - Punch International of Belgium, today received approval from the liquidators to acquire the assets of the bankrupt Xeikon NV. Punch had been interested in taking over the insolvent company for quite some time and had previously submitted several bids. Xeikon NV was declared bankrupt by the commercial court in Antwerp on Wednesday morning March 6. Punch immediately resubmitted an offer in the course of the afternoon to acquire all of the assets of the company in Belgium and take over a part of the employees. A preliminary agreement was concluded this afternoon, March 7, with the liquidators Mr. Van Houcke, Mr. Van Camp and Mr. Van Caneghem. Punch International will retain the Xeikon brand name. Xeikon NV, founded in 1988, is still a world leading supplier of production digital printing systems for a wide range of commercial and industrial applications. Xeikon recently field a request for creditor protection under applicable Belgian legislation. The Company’s subsidiary in France, Xeikon France S.A., entered into a receivership proceeding under applicable French legislation. The company’s subsidiaries in Germany, UK, Japan and the USA have not filed for creditor protection and continue to operate normally. Xeikon NV clarified its restructuring plan before the Court of Commerce in Antwerp on November 27, 2001 and received temporarily relief from its obligation to service existing debts on November 28, 2001 for a period of four months. As there was still not a full acquisition agreement on Tuesday March 5, Xeikon decided to go bankrupt. The commercial court in Antwerp declared the company bankrupt on Wednesday morning - March 6. Punch then submitted a new bid on Wednesday afternoon. Today, the liquidators approved the acquisition of Xeikon by Punch International. Under the deal, Punch acquires all of the assets of Xeikon NV in Belgium and will maintain 235 former employees. Punch has already decided that it will retain the Xeikon brand name in order to maximally support the company’s commercial activities in the future. In addition, the acquisition also includes the toner factory in Heultje, the production activity in Mortsel (ao color digital printing systems), the land property in Lier, all of the intangible assets (especially the Intellectual Property Rights) and all of the stock. Punch International is currently negotiating a leasing contract with the bank for the new Xeikon building in Lier. The shareholding in the French Nipson will not be taken over. Nonetheless, Punch is currently investigating the acquisition of Xeikon Inc., the American subsidiary of Xeikon NV, and the Xeikon subsidiary in Japan. The new management team of the digital color press department will mainly consist of former professional and managerial staff of Xeikon NV and will be headed by Mr. Jan Van Daele, formerly R&D director at Xeikon. The acquisition price was not made public. Punch International will integrate the digital color press activities in its Professional Electronics business unit, which primarily concentrates on graphical solutions. The company endeavors to restart the activities of the bankrupt Xeikon as soon as possible to guarantee continuity of service to all of the existing and new customers. At present, Punch’s graphical division, Strobbe Graphics, is the world leader in print preparation or Computer-to-Plate machines for the newspaper industry. The company keeps an eye on the developments in the graphics sector and had been searching for interesting acquisition opportunities in this sector for quite some time to further consolidate its graphics department. Punch is convinced that Xeikon remains a company with excellent growth perspectives, which deserves a second chance. “Xeikon is a truly Flemish company that is prominently present. Its digital technology is among the best in the world,” says Guido Dumarey, CEO of Punch. “Xeikon and Strobbe Graphics will be consolidated into one graphical business unit to optimize the synergy possibilities, especially in the fields of Research and Development.” Through this strategic acquisition, Punch endeavors to further expand its market share in Europe, extend its product range and broaden its services, so achieving its long-term objective of providing more products with higher added value. Founded in 1982, Punch International produces and assembles components, subsystems and finished products for “Original Equipment Manufacturers”, for the consumer and for the professional electronics industry. In 2001, Punch achieved a turnover of almost EUR 110 million, and a 94.6% increase in the current profit to EUR 8.2 million. The group operates 12 production units employing more than 2000 personnel in 9 countries. Punch International has been listed on the First Market of the Brussels Stock Exchange, now Euronext, since 1999, where it is part of the NextPrime index. For more information about the group and the development of its activities, please visit our web site at http://www.punchinternational.com.