An increasing number of multinational corporations are ditching unrelated acquisitions and returning to their core businesses. This means more “orphans” becoming management buy-outs, or merging with former competitors to create new businesses. Others are snapped up by venture capitalists. These elements are apparent in a significant merger involving the printing inks and plates operations of BASF Drucksysteme GmbH and ANI Printing Inks, based in Trelleborg in southern Sweden. Both companies have been acquired by CVC Capital Partners, a European firm of global venture capitalists based in London. The deal is subject to regulatory approval, but the merged businesses will be headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany. Also included is a pigment production plant at BASF Colorants & Chemicals in Shanghai, as well as the BASF Corporation’s plant in Huntington, WV, in the United States, which produces alkali blue.
BASF entered the printing plate business in 1965. Five years later it acquired a German inkmaker to form a separate printing inks business and in 1997 all operations were combined as BASF Printing Systems, operating independently within the giant chemicals group. It currently employs 2,000 people in Europe and 600 worldwide in 16 companies spread over 20 sites. In 2003, the division posted sales in excess of €600 million ($720 million) and reported an operating profit. Brands include K+E and Fishburn inks and Nyloflex photopolymer plates.
ANI has fully owned subsidiaries in most European countries as well as Russia, China, South Africa, Brazil, Morocco, Malaysia, Thailand and the USA. Around 960 people are employed worldwide and sales in 2003 were worth €231 million ($277.2 million). After separating from Dutch drugmaker Akzo Nobel NV in 2001, the business became part of Akzo Nobel Coatings. In February 2002 it became a privately-owned company through an MBO.
Peter Koivula, CEO, said the merger was in line with a consolidation plan announced at the end of 2001 in the context of the MBO. Wolfgang Büchele, director of BASF’s Performance Chemicals division in charge of the BASF Printing Systems business, added: “Our printing systems were successful and made a decidedly positive contribution to profits. The entire European industry is currently in a state of upheaval, making it necessary to give the business a more strongly global thrust. By spinning the printing business off, we are endeavoring to give it new prospects to further expand its activities worldwide.”
CVC Capital Partners was founded in 1981 as Citicorp’s European private equity arm, but in 1993 completed its own management buy-out to become an independent private equity provider in the UK and continental Europe. It specializes in large leveraged buy-outs and manages $9 billion worth of funds covering a portfolio of 54 European companies and 12 Asian companies. Managing Director Christian Wildmoser said his company was making a decisive contribution to consolidation in a fragmented industry. “As a result of the acquisition, BASF Printing Systems will become a core business and the merger with ANI will ensure that in the future a leading printing systems business will not only be able to maintain its market position, but expand it further.”