2019 in Review: Major investment into print

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With bad news travelling faster than good, printers could be forgiven for thinking the end is nigh. The reality, though, is that 2019 saw a huge amount of money invested into print, as printers, developers, and suppliers banked on the future success of the $8bn manufacturing industry, which pumps $8bn a year into the Australian economy and another $1bn into New Zealand.

Day of triumph: Michael Hannan, chair (left) and Kevin Slaven, CEO Ovato.
Day of triumph: Michael Hannan, chair (left) and Kevin Slaven, CEO Ovato.

Among the highlights is the creation of one of the biggest print sites in the southern hemisphere, the expanded Ovato site at Warwick Farm, which now has seven heatset webs including its new $20m 80pp manroland Lithoman. Ovato also spent more than $1m on Konica Minolta digital kit for printing short-run books in Clayton.

Rival IVE, meanwhile, invested $50m+ in distribution for a catalogues market that continues be a winner for the big retailers. IVE bought Salmat's distribution business for $25m, and is spending the same or more again on upgrading the business. IVE business Blue Star Direct spent $5.5m on a new HP PageWide digital print system.

News Corp is investing in a new greenfield printing site on the outskirts of Melbourne, as it continues with its belief in printed news in contrast to Nine (Fairfax) with its digital first strategy, while in the tragedy-hit town Whakatāne, Beacon Print is installing a new newspaper press to print community newspapers, including its own.

And still on the North Island, Fred Soar's multi-award winning business became the first in the region to install Heidelberg's subscription based press model. Other B1 offset investments also included PrintGraphics with its second Komori long perfector - interestingly in this era of online communications and web-to-print this company maintains a large of number of face-to-face account managers. Quality Press in WA bought the ten-colour KBA from collapsed Picton Press, with the company saying it is investing for the future.

Among the companies investing in HP Indigo was the rebranded Luminar in NSW, with a new 20000 taking it into digital pouch production printing. Probably the biggest investment in multiple presses came from Prima Printing in Victoria, whiuch bought eight Ricoh digital colour print systems in one go. Prima is the largest manufacturer of personalised consumer products in Australia and New Zealand, and was only established three years ago.Smaller print business were also investing in kit. Imagination Graphics bought the first Konica Minolta B2 inkjet sheetfed press in NSW, while Ellipsis bought the first Fujifilm B2 inkjet sheetfed press in the country. Mailing house mmw3degrees also moved into print with a Fuji Xerox Iridesse.

On the corporate side, a Korean outfit bought Wayne Sidwell's Wellcom for $265m, the deal coming two decades after the Sidwells sold Show Ads to PMP for another tidy sum. Please run the country Wayne.

The year also saw US private equity fund Siris buy EFI for $1.7bn – although this was a leveraged buyout, meaning EFI now has a $1bn debt. Siris subsequently installed ousted Xerox CEO Jeff Jacobson as the new EFI CEO.

Inkjet print solutions developer Durst opened its own subsidiary here, with Matt Ashman installed as managing director; Oji announced a $100m spend on its Christchurch box making plant; and Australian Paper got the go-ahead for its $600m energy from waste project.

Printers up and down the land were backing themselves with new equipment, knowing that although print is changing – as figures for coated paper imports showed – the opportunities are continuing.

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