he growing financial activity of private equity companies in the graphics industry was noted in the last column, when we reported the XSYS Print Solutions takeover of Flint Ink. No sooner had CVC Capital Partners been given the green light then we hear that Kirkbi a/s is selling the profitable packaging-related activities of Esko-Graphics. Kirkbi is selling it for an undisclosed price to Axcel, another Danish company. The industrial investment group specializes in buying international medium and large-size companies.
Esko-Graphics was formed in 2002 following the merger of Barco Graphics and Purup-Eskofot. The prepress and computer-to-plate (CTP) technology group soon began focusing on the packaging supply chain, while also offering workflow automation software to commercial printers. At present Esko-Graphics employs around 700 people worldwide and has its operational headquarters in Gent, Belgium. R&D, manufacturing and other facilities are located in Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Norway, and the USA. There are local sales and support organizations in several countries throughout Europe, North America and the Asia/Pacific region, including Japan and China, plus global resellers and distributors.
Axcel is buying Esko-Graphics’ packaging business built up from the former Barco business. It has made profits in recent years, in contrast with the discontinued loss-making offset CTP activities. For the full year 2005, Esko-Graphics expects net revenues of more than €110 million ($136.76 million), an increase of 12 percent over 2004. Esko-Graphics’ small-format offset activities are not included in the agreement. Kirkbi will continue to support these operations, but is looking for a buyer in cooperation with the current OEM and distribution partners.
Esko-Graphics’s chief executive, Kim Graven-Nielsen, who steered the group over the past three years, said that after completion of the deal his role passes to chief financial and chief operating officer, Carsten Knudsen. “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,” said Axcel’s managing partner, Christian Frigast. The company was established in 1994 and has a capital commitment of €800 million ($995 million).