For many years, Heidelberg has been to the European printing industry what General Motors is to the US automobile business. Now that comparison looks too close for comfort as Heidelberg’s boss, Bernhard Schreier, announced to disgruntled shareholders that the fall in the company’s share price, which has gone from €40 to €11 over the past 12 months, has whetted the appetites of several potential bidders. Schreier denied rumors that Warren Buffet and “unnamed Russian interests” were among them. As well as having a minority (30 percent) stake in label press maker Gallus, Heidelberg also makes the Speedmaster format presses used all over the world to print sheet labels.
Europe is home to at least 20 narrow web press manufacturers, all facing up to the prospect of an economic downturn and rising imports of presses from manufacturers in lower-cost countries like China, India and the United States. So far this year only one press manufacturer has gone under (Imer, Spain), but rumors are circulating that at least one fast-expanding, highly leveraged press maker is having difficulties meeting its commitments.