Top Companies Report

2. Flint Group S.A.


26b, Boulevard Royal
L-2449 Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Phone: +49 711 9816 230
Fax: +49 711 9816 99230
Sales: $2.9 billion (€2.21 billion).

Major Products: Flint Group is dedicated to serving the global print media and packaging industry. Products include coldset and heatset web offset, sheetfed offset, flexographic, gravure and UV/EB inks; coatings for publication, news, package and commercial applications. A wide range of inks for narrow web tag and label applications. Photopolymer plates and sleeve systems for flexographic applications; highly engineered printing blankets and sleeves for offset applications, pressroom chemicals and supplies. Dry, flushed and press cake pigments, chips and resins for ink and other applications, aqueous dispersions, hyperdispersants and additives for the colorant market.

Key Personnel: Charles Knott, chairman and CEO; Michael J. Bissell, EVP and CFO; Dr. Dirk Aulbert, president, Packaging and Narrow Web; Dermot Healy, president, Print Media Europe; William B. Miller, president, Print Media Americas; Dr. Thomas Telser, president, Flexographic Products; Craig Foster, president, Pigments; Russell Taylor, SVP global human resources and communications; Jan Paul van der Velde, SVP, procurement.

Number of Employees: Approximately 7,300 worldwide.

Comments: As was the case for virtually all ink manufacturers, Flint Group felt the impact of the global recession on the printing industry. To offset the impact of the recession, the company put even more emphasis on customer focus while controlling its own costs.

Flint Group CEO Charles Knott said that 2009 was a difficult year for the industry.

“The changes in the world’s economy during Q4 of 2008 accelerated the changes that our industry was facing,” Mr. Knott said. “This meant two key attention areas for Flint Group. Firstly, ensuring that our products, and more importantly our people, were focused on delivering tangible value to our customers, and secondly, ensuring that internally, we eliminated waste and had an appropriate cost structure for the market in which we operate.”

“Flint Group performed well under challenging circumstances by focusing on customers, controllable costs and innovation,” added Bill Miller, president, Print Media Americas

It was this stronger customer focus that also helped Flint Group to perform well within the European markets as Dermot Healy, president, Print Media Europe, commented. “As a result of our decision to re-structure the business at the beginning of 2009, we were able to react with more agility to the reducing demand from the marketplace and to take advantage of our unrivaled portfolio to stabilize our business,” Mr. Healy added.

Likewise, 2009 was also a tough year for the whole packaging and label industry but as Dr. Dirk Aulbert, president, Packaging & Narrow Web Division, said, “It turned out to be a much better year than anyone would have expected at the mid-year point. The first half was slow, while the second half was in recovery. The formation of Flint Group's global division Packaging and Narrow Web early 2009 strengthened our offerings to customers during difficult times.”

For Flint Group, the improvement in the economy as the year progressed was good news. 

“Early 2009 was the low point for print demand, and therefore ink demand,” said Mr. Miller. “Demand increased slowly after that, and has continued to do so. The uptick is evident in a number of ways, including the resulting shortages in raw materials that are now in demand after a time of decreased inventories and capacity.”

This view was echoed by Mr. Healy. “There were definite signs that the recession bottomed in the first half of 2009, and so we did see some recovery in volumes in the latter part of the year,” he said. “However it is all relative, and these improvements are measured against a very low point; 2010 has started reasonably well and market volumes have improved, especially in heatset and sheetfed applications, although the newspaper sector continues to struggle.”

This optimism is also shared in the packaging sector, which by its very nature is less vulnerable than the Print Media markets to economic downturns. 

“The majority of packaging printers have regained enough volume to feel more confident about the rest of 2010 and further into the future,” Dr. Aulbert said. “We expect the packaging industry to show positive growth for the rest of 2010.”

In terms of highlights, 2009 witnessed the successful re-structuring of the Flint Group business to create a more customer-focused organization. The two key elements of these changes were the creation of regional Print Media divisions in Europe, Asia-Pacific as well as North and Latin America and the formation of the global Packaging and Narrow Web business unit.

Looking back 12 months on from the restructure, Mr. Knott commented, “In early 2009 we established a Print Media Division and a Packaging Division to enable customers to fully benefit from the total product and service offering that Flint Group could deliver. We wanted to make doing business with us easier and more efficient for our customers and we have been very successful in doing this.

“We have been able to provide some significant advantages to our customers as a result of the reorganization,” Mr. Knott added. “We can now draw on an unrivaled network of products, knowledge, expertise, service and support that provides real value to customers to help them to remain competitive in a difficult economy.”

Mr. Healy described how the restructure has enabled Flint Group’s Print Media Europe Division to meet customer needs better than ever before. 

“In bringing together five former divisions into just one, we have created a truly unique organization, capable of reacting far more quickly to market and economic needs,” Mr. Healy noted. “Our value proposition now centers around a unique portfolio of products and support which enables us to concentrate our efforts and resources on matching customer needs, in both optimized product performance and in a bespoke service.”

“The formation of the global Packaging and Narrow Web Division with its extended reach and clear focus on the Packaging and Label market has enabled Flint Group to lever its global capabilities to provide tailored products and services to both regional and international packaging and label printers across all regions,” Dr. Aulbert added.

During 2009, Flint Group strengthened its customer service and support structure in key growth markets. Flint Group’s Packaging and Narrow Web division made a number of key investments in Russia (acquisition of Russian ink producer and distributor Premo Ink LLC in Moscow), Turkey (joint venture Flint-Unirep Packaging Inks and also invested in improving the infrastructure of its Polish site with the building of a brand new warehouse and production hall with a total space of 2,000 square meters. An additional office building in Poland is also scheduled to follow in mid- 2010.

In February 2010 Flint Group signed an agreement to acquire Torda, a leading manufacturer of printing inks for the packaging markets in Northern Europe, the Balkans and the Middle East with a substantial presence in Eastern Europe. 

“The company’s business model and performance is an excellent fit for Flint Group’s strategy,” Dr. Aulbert said. “Torda’s setup ideally complements and expands Flint Group’s network of manufacturing and service facilities into exciting growth markets. The acquisition of Torda thus supports Flint Group’s strategy to grow in the packaging print consumables market in a sustainable and profitable way by strengthening its position in these developing markets. Moreover, Torda has some excellent technology positions which we will be able to leverage throughout the global Flint Group organization.”

“The recent Torda acquisition falls in line with our strategy to selectively participate in industry consolidation where it makes economic sense and to add businesses where we can selectively strengthen our product range or regional coverage,” Mr. Knott added.