We recently spoke with Tony Lord, president of Flint Group Print Media Europe, about Flint Group’s moves on the publication ink side in Europe, as well as key issues facing the publication industry.
Ink World: How will the acquisition of Siegwerk’s web offset business affect the European publication industry?
Tony Lord:The European publication industry remains a dynamic, exciting and challenging market. Flint Group’s focus and strategy on providing high-end products, superior service and long-standing expertise has positioned the company well against a background of declining volumes and market consolidation.
Throughout this period, Flint Group has continued to develop and deliver its unique and unparalleled offering of inks, pressroom chemicals and transfer media products that have been designed to meet the exacting standards of today’s publication printers – further enhancing its strong focus on the publication segment.
The acquisition of Siegwerk’s web offset business and subsequent investment in our manufacturing sites in Frankfurt and s’Gravensande has only served to underline the value and commitment Flint Group has placed on this key segment – securing a long-term supply position for our heatset and news ink customers.
Ink World: It has now been several months since the acquisition was finalized. How has the integration program gone and what has been the impact to customers?
Tony Lord:We have been extremely pleased with progress to-date. The key Siegwerk employees who joined Flint Group as part of the deal are now prospering as part of our expanded team. Their work along with the collaboration and effort of our existing teams has been pivotal in ensuring that any transition of supply has remained seamless.
In merging the expertise and technological know-how of both companies, we also aim to deliver further product, value and service advantages to our combined customer base.
Ink World:Flint Group recently sold its European publication gravure interests to Sun Chemical. Why did Flint Group take the decision to exit the publication gravure segment?
Tony Lord:The decision to sell Flint Group’s European publication gravure business was very much in line with the organization’s long-term strategy to increase focus on its core web offset markets, where it continues to build and invest - as evidenced by the recent purchase of Siegwerk’s global web offset business and expansion of its global Print Media business.
We were also pleased to have reached agreement with Sun Chemical, as this provided security of supply to our customers, with whom we have enjoyed excellent relations with.
The transfer of the publication gravure business to Sun Chemical in September this year has meant that we have been able to free up space and people in our facility in Frankfurt, which will allow us to provide increased focus and resources on our current web offset offering moving forward.
Ink World: Do you think that the publication industry consolidation we have witnessed will continue?
Tony Lord:Early industry indicators all point to a continued decline in volume within the European publication market, which will probably result in further consolidation across the print and associated supply base as organizations look to maintain efficiency and service to the industry.
Flint Group’s global resources, technical expertise and product portfolio of inks, pressroom chemicals, offset blankets and sleeves places the company well to assist publication printers to meet their production challenges, streamline operations and achieve their commercial goals.
Ink World: What do you see as being the main challenges you will face as one of the largest publication ink manufacturers in Europe?
Tony Lord:We believe that industry consolidation will continue to be driven by volume and the need for printers and suppliers to adapt to provide the most efficient platforms to meet customer requirements. While the market environment will remain challenging, Flint Group remains fully committed to providing its publication customers with the most reliable products and delivering them in the most streamlined fashion.
Ink World: What about the price decline that Flint is experiencing over the last years?
Tony Lord:We believe that the structural over-supply and weak raw material costs have driven price declines in Print Media. After all, prices have to reflect the value of the product…There will still be a printing industry ten years from now in Europe and we are committed to serving this market for our customers. However, even with a long term strategy, price levels must be commercially viable.
Ink World: Margins depend on prices and cost. What about cost optimization?
Tony Lord:Of course, cost optimization remains an important area of focus for us. After the merger with Siegwerk, we have sufficient volume to run our current product set-up cost-optimal. Additionally, we have strived for efficiencies in our production and logistics and are working with customers to achieve this. We are also discussing formulation optimization to reduce variable costs as well as supply chain measures. By now, our opportunities to take out further costs including raw materials are limited.
Ink World: What is Flint Group’s position in respect to the waterless Cortina segment following the acquisition of Siegwerk’s web offset business?
Tony Lord: Flint Group remains committed to all of its web offset customers. We also recognize the investment that customers have made to specific processes including the use of Cortina presses and will continue to support them in this.
Ink World: Is Flint Group still committed to the sale of printing blankets, pressroom chemicals and ancillary products?
Tony Lord:Absolutely. Flint Group offers a broad and premier combination of products, service and expertise. From its European wide manufacturing bases Flint Group delivers high-quality, proven web offset inks, blankets, sleeves and pressroom chemicals that meet the exacting demands of today’s heatset and news ink printers.
Our customer focus, development expertise and innovation teams work to create tailored products and services that provide increased value to customers.
Ink World: What impact will the United Kingdom’s decision to exit the European Union have on Flint Group?
Tony Lord:It is still a little early to fully predict exactly what impact ‘brexit’ will have on our business. However, as with many other suppliers to the UK, we are closely monitoring the situation to ascertain exactly what impact cost increases will have on our UK operations following the devaluation to sterling triggered by the European exit vote at the end of June.