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Esko-Graphics continues packaging growth strategy with Danish private equity investment company Axcel

Press release from the issuing company

Gent (Belgium), 6 September 2005 – Esko-Graphics, the world leader in packaging pre-production solutions, announces that its shareholder, Kirkbi A/S, has entered into an agreement with leading Danish private equity company Axcel to transfer the ownership and all packaging related activities of Esko-Graphics to Axcel. The companies have agreed not to disclose terms and conditions for the transaction, which is expected to close by the end of September. Axcel is a leading Danish industrial investment company with an international outlook, established in 1994. With capital commitment totaling over DKK 6 billion (EUR 800 million), Axcel invests in competitive medium-sized companies, which have the potential for improvement and value creation. Axcel is backed by a group of first-class Danish and international investors from a broad range of industries and the financial sector. For more information, see www.axcel.dk Under the agreement, Kirkbi retains the ownership of Esko-Graphics’ small-format offset activities. Kirkbi continues to support these operations while actively looking for an industry partner to further develop this business, in cooperation with the current OEM and distribution partners. The new Esko-Graphics: full focus on packaging Esko-Graphics is a Danish company having its main business in the development, assembly, distribution and support of software, equipment and services used to create and manufacture packaging and display materials. Typical customers include brand owners, retailers, packaging designers and printers/converters. Esko-Graphics employs around 700 people worldwide. It has its operational headquarters in Gent, Belgium with R&D, manufacturing and other facilities located in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Norway, the United States and the Czech Republic. The company has local sales and support organizations in a number of countries throughout Europe, North America and the Asia/Pacific region, including Japan and China. Its products are also distributed through a global network of resellers and distribution partners. Since 2002, Esko-Graphics has successfully focused its strategy towards delivering value-adding solutions across the complete packaging supply chain. Esko-Graphics is the world leader in packaging pre-production workflow software, flexo computer-to-plate imaging devices, and samplemaking and short-run production machines for the packaging and sign & display markets. It also offers workflow automation software for commercial printers, and provides its customers with a broad range of professional services. All these are growth segments with annual market growth rates ranging between 5-20%. The subject of this transaction is Esko-Graphics’ packaging business, which has been profitable for the last few years, in contrast to the discontinued loss-giving offset CtP activities. For the full year 2005, Esko-Graphics expects net revenues of over EUR 110 million, an increase of 12% over 2004, and an EBIT exceeding 8%. For more information, visit Esko-Graphics' web site at www.esko-graphics.com Positioned for profitable growth “Over the last three years, we have developed Esko-Graphics from a newly merged company, operating under challenging economic and business conditions, into a strong, dynamic and profitable company prepared for further growth and expansion”, states Kim Graven-Nielsen, President and CEO of Esko-Graphics. “The support and commitment of our shareholder Kirkbi has been essential to make this transformation possible”. “Kirkbi has over the past year opted to adjust its strategy and divested its direct investments such as Kompan and Glud&Marstrand, and now Esko-Graphics”, states Bent Pedersen, Managing Director of Kirkbi. “Kirkbi and Esko-Graphics believe that a private equity investment offers the best platform for further development. Kirkbi has chosen Axcel because Axcel has the resources and the expertise to continue Esko-Graphics’ growth and expansion. The parties have further agreed that Kirkbi will participate in Esko-Graphics’ future profit on final exit”. “Axcel is excited to welcome Esko-Graphics to its group of partner companies”, comments Christian Frigast, Axcel’s Managing Partner. “We have identified many attractive opportunities for Esko-Graphics, a recognized leader in an industry that more than ever is driven by globalization and consolidation. We will closely interact with Esko-Graphics’ senior management, and provide the support and the security required for a successful implementation of an ambitious development strategy.” New CEO continues strategy “With this transfer of ownership, my task of guiding Esko-Graphics through a difficult transformation phase and laying the foundation for its future has come to an end”, continues Kim Graven-Nielsen. “It is therefore my pleasure to announce that current CFO/COO Carsten N. Knudsen has accepted to become Esko-Graphics’ CEO from the time of closing”. “Kirkbi and Esko-Graphics are proud of what has been accomplished under Kim’s leadership”, says Jean-Claude Deschamps, who will continue as Chairman of Esko-Graphics’ Board of Directors. “We owe Kim many thanks for his efforts and achievements. As an equally strong contributor to the company’s development, Carsten Knudsen is the logical choice to provide a natural continuation of this process”. Carsten Knudsen (44) joined Esko-Graphics in October 2002 as CFO/COO and member of the Executive Management Board. Before that, he held executive management and CFO positions with ISS and Maersk/A.P.Moller in Spain, Singapore, the USA and Denmark. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce and an MBA. “I am honored to accept my new role in Esko-Graphics and welcome the challenges lying ahead of us”, adds Carsten Knudsen. “All of us at Esko-Graphics are looking forward to continue the strategy laid out over the last three years to extend our leadership in packaging pre-production, with Axcel as our new business and capital partner”.