Thursday, November 7, 2019

Market for Label Printing Catches Fire – October 2019 M&A Activity


The number of M&A transactions in the label printing segment shot up in October after several rather tepid months including three months in the last twelve in which we found no acquisitions of label printing companies. One reason for the slow pace of new label deals may be because valuations are reportedly at record highs for companies that print labels. With purchase price multiples near or even exceeding double digits, buyers in the label segment are being especially careful, extending due diligence and digging deep to make sure the high price is warranted. Nonetheless and despite high valuations, competition for the most viable acquisition candidates is stiff and almost entirely fueled by large private equity funds seeking to build out their existing label platforms. Without exception, recent deals have been backed by investment funds with billions of dollars to invest. Smaller players are being priced out of the action.

ProMach acquired Jet Label, based in Edmonton, Alberta. With over $827 million in total revenues, ProMach’s primary business is not label printing and converting, rather the company mostly designs and manufactures over 300 models of machinery that make, fill, cap, close, seal, wrap, convey and transport a wide variety of packaging types. With the acquisition of Jet Label, the company expands its limited, but growing, presence in label printing and converting. The addition of Jet Label adds a seventh label converting facility to the six existing converting plants that extend from California to New Hampshire. A sideline of the much larger machinery business, ProMach’s ID Technology division provides its customers with prime labels, printed tapes and coding systems that complement the packaging processes enabled by the core equipment side of the business. Leonard Green & Company, the private equity fund that owns ProMach, traces its roots back to 1969 and the early days of the private leveraged buyout. The fund now has more than $23.5 billion under management.

Label rollup company Fort Dearborn acquired substantially all of the assets of Walle Corporation, a label printing company located in Alpharetta, Georgia. Walle ran into financial difficulty and liquidity constraints which led to the marketing and sale of the company. The acquired assets include an offset plant in New Orleans that produces cut and stack paper labels, as well as film and in-mold labels. The company also has a flexo plant in Winchester, Kentucky that produces roll-fed and shrink-sleeve labels. Fort Dearborn has appeared on The Target Report deal logs five times as the buyer and in 2016 as the seller when the company was acquired by private equity firm Advent International. (See The Target Report: August 2016, Private Equity Loves Labels). Advent is truly international, with investments in 41 countries and $54.3 billion under its management. Company owners in the commercial printing segment will also know of one of Advent’s other portfolio companies, Williams Lea Tag, the print management company. Printing company owners cringe and prepare for hardball negotiating upon learning that one of their clients is shifting their print spend to Williams Lea. (See The Target Report: August 2017, Williams Lea Tag is on the Move).



Inovar Packaging Group, based in Dallas, acquired Flexo-Graphics, a label printing company located in Butler, Wisconsin. The acquisition establishes Inovar in the Midwest in addition to its plants in New England, Florida and Texas. Inovar has enjoyed the financial sponsorship of AEA Investors since 2016 and has appeared as a buyer of label companies six times on our deal logs since. AEA Investors is also a big player in the rigid plastic and glass packaging segments, having acquired TricorBraun, also in 2016. AEA Investors is not a newcomer to the private equity business and does not seek institutional investors, rather it’s more of a “super family office” that was founded in 1968 by Rockefeller, Mellon and Harriman family interests. With over $15 billion under management, the fund includes more than “75 participants who include some of the world’s pre-eminent industrial families, business executives and former government leaders” who clearly believe that packaging is a good investment.

PPC Flexible Packaging, a portfolio company of Morgan Stanley Capital, has acquired Popular Ink from Highlander Partners. Popular Ink, located in McKinney, Texas, produces pressure sensitive labels, as well as shrink sleeves and various forms of flexible packaging including stick packs, pouches and stand-up bags. Earlier this year, PPC acquired HFM Packaging, the same month that Platinum Equity purchased label printer Multi-Color Corporation and merged it with WS Packaging, forming one of the largest of the consolidations in the segment. (See The Target Report: February 2019, Platinum Equity Likes Print). Morgan Stanley Capital Partners is the private equity segment of Morgan Stanley, the financial services firm with over $40 billion in annual revenues.

Fortis Solutions Group, usually an active participant in the stiff competition for desirable acquisition targets in the label segment, recently chose instead to go down the organic path to growth and opened a greenfield startup plant in Napa, California. The new plant was established specifically to focus on the wine, craft beer and spirits industries. The new facility will operate both flexo and digital offset presses. However, don’t count Fortis out of the acquisition game; the company earlier this year acquired Infinite Packaging from Svoboda Capital Partners which itself had rolled up several label printers to create Infinite. Fortis is a portfolio company of Main Post Partners. Main Post is a relative newcomer to the private equity scene, established in 2014 with “only” $1.1 billion now under its management.

Eschewing the more lucrative exit route in the hot label segment and not selling to a private equity-backed rollup, Macaran Printed Products, located in Cohoes, New York, has become a 100% employee owned company. The owner noted that he chose the ESOP route when selling the company to protect and reward his 55 employees. The company primarily prints pressure sensitive labels. The new owners, the employees, will need to work diligently and find ways to fund ESOP requirements and still be able to reinvest in the latest technology needed to survive and grow in the consolidating and highly competitive label business. As evidenced by the recent M&A trends in the label printing segment, their competitors are increasingly owned by and financially supported by super-sized investment funds that will invest to grow their label printing platform companies.

Commercial Printing and Diversified Services

Transcontinental, the largest printing company in Canada, which has been laser-focused on transforming itself from a magazine and newspaper publisher and printer into a packaging company, veered off course and acquired Holland & Crosby. The purchased company is based in Mississauga, Ontario and produces wide format printing and in-store displays for retail. Since we first wrote about Transcontinental and its transformative strategy back in 2014, the company has been a consistent serial acquirer of flexible packaging assets, culminating in the mega deal in which the company acquired Coveris Americas. Over the same time period, Transcontinental methodically divested newspaper and non-differentiated commercial printing assets. The acquisitions and divestitures combined to make packaging the source of more than half of the company’s revenues. (See The Target Report: April 2018, Getting Flexible in Your Middle Years).

As we noted in our annual review of M&A activity in September, there has been an increase in the number of acquisitions of mailing service and fulfillment-related companies over the past two years. In that vein, Court Square Capital Partners acquired Lakewood, New Jersey-based J. Knipper and Company. Knipper provides direct mail and fulfillment services exclusively to the pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device markets. Specialized services include sample programs that require stringent compliance with FDA and other regulatory agencies. Direct mail and print management are part of a larger “value-added” offering.

H.I.G. Capital once again voted with its wallet and expressed confidence in print-centric businesses with a major “growth investment” in Circle Graphics. Based in the Denver area, Circle Graphics is a highly focused powerhouse in the production of outdoor advertising graphics for the billboard industry. According to industry sources, the company has established itself as the low-cost provider utilizing custom-made digital printers and in-house ink production, effectively dominating the outdoor market. A second division of Circle Graphics provides personalized custom wall décor as well as pre-designed art images, serving the growing market for creating highly individualized environments utilizing digital printing technologies. 


2019 October - Mergers and Acquisitions in the Printing, Packaging, Paper & Related Industries

Deal Party #1
(Surviving Entity)
Pre-Deal
Revenues
($Mil )


Party #1 Address


Deal Party #2
Pre-Deal
Revenues
($Mil )


Party #2 Address
Date
Deal
Public
Deal
Value
($Mil)

Deal Structure
(Intermediary)


Notes

Press
Release
ProMach
(Port co Leonard Green & Partners)
$827.0 Covington, KY Jet Label No Data Edmonton, AB 10/31/19 No Data Acquisition Label printing Link
Fort Dearborn
(Port co. Advent International)
$478.1 Elk Grove, IL Walle No Data Alpharetta, GA 10/31/19 No Data Asset Acquisition
(SSG Capital Advisors)
Label printing Link
Graphic Systems Services No Data Springboro, OH Global Web Finishing No Data Merrillville, IN 10/29/19 No Data Acquisition Web finishing systems Link
Paragon Group $1,300 London, UK Euro Global Document Solutions
(Div. R.R. Donnelley)
$270.0
($6,410)
Chicago, IL 10/28/19 No Data Acquisition Document management Link
H2 Equity Partners No Data Amsterdam, Netherlands Contiweb
(Port co. American Ind. Partners)
No Data Boxmeer, Netherlands 10/23/19 No Data Acquisition Web handling systems Link
Macaran Printed Products ESOP No Data Cohoes, NY Macaran Printed Products
(Div. W.N. Van Alstine & Sons)
No Data Cohoes, NY 10/16/19 No Data Sale to ESOP Label printing Link
Inovar Packaging Group
(Port co. AEA Investors)
No Data Dallas, TX Flexo-Graphics No Data Butler, WI 10/15/19 No Data Acquisition Label printing Link
Solutions in Print $17.0 Davenport, IA Performance Group No Data Omaha, NE 10/15/19 No Data Acquisition
(Corp Dev Assoc)
Print management Link
Schneps Media No Data New York, NY AM New York
(Prop. Newsday)
No Data Melville, NY 10/11/19 No Data Acquisition Community newspaper Link
Atar Capital No Data Los Angeles, CA Keypoint Intelligence
(InfoTrends & Buyers Lab)
No Data Fairfield, NJ 10/10/19 No Data Acquisition Digital imaging analysis Link
PPC Flexible Packaging
(Port co Morgan Stanley Capital)
No Data Buffalo Grove, IL Popular Ink
(Port co Highlander Partners)
No Data McKinney, TX 10/9/19 No Data Acquisition Flexible packaging & labels Link
Inland Press Association
(America's Newspapers)
No Data Des Plaines, IL Southern Newspaper Publishers Association No Data Atlanta, GA 10/8/19 No Data Merger Trade association Link
Novolex
(Port co. Carlyle Group)
No Data Hartsville, SC Zenith Specialty Bags No Data City of Industry, CA 10/4/19 No Data Acquisition Food packaging Link
Court Square Capital Partners No Data New York, NY J. Knipper and Company No Data Lakewood, NJ 10/2/19 No Data Acquisition Direct mail & fulfillment Link
H.I.G. Capital No Data Miami, FL Circle Graphic Holdings No Data Longmont, CO 10/2/19 No Data Investment Out-of-home graphics Link
Transcontinental $1,957 Montreal, QC Holland & Crosby No Data Mississauga, ON 10/2/19 No Data Acquisition
(New Direction)
Wide format, in-store display Link


2019 October - Bankruptcy Filings in the Printing, Packaging, Paper & Related Industries



Filing Party

Date
Case
Filed
Pre-Petition
Revenues
($Mil )



Case #



Filing Party Address



Circuit



Region & City



Judge



Attorney for Debtor



Notes
Chapter 11 Filings:
Tiger Oak Media, Incorporated 10/7/19 No Data 19-43029 Minneapolis, MN 8th Minnesota
Minneapolis
Michael E. Ridgway Steven B. Nosek Regional magazine publishing
No Chapter 7 Filings Found this Month --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---


2019 October - Non-Bankruptcy Closures in the Printing, Packaging, Paper & Related Industries



Closed Company / Facility

Date of Closure
Pre-Closure
Revenues
($Mil )



Closing Address
Related Party Related Party
Address
Date Closure Public


Notes

Press
Releases
Sentinel Printing Dec-19 No Data St. Cloud, MN CJK Group Brainerd, MN Oct-19 Consolidating plants Link
Family Circle Magazine Dec-19 No Data Des Moines, IA Meredith Des Moines, IA Oct-19 Ceasing publication Link
Keystone Millbrook Dec-19 No Data Grand Ledge, MI N/A None Oct-19 Commercial printing Link
CRT Custom Products Dec-19 No Data Whites Creek, TN N/A None Oct-19 Folding cartons Link

Monday, October 7, 2019

Behind the Scenes in Photobooks – September 2019 M&A Activity


Seattle-based RPI announced the acquisition of on-demand printing assets from SoftPrint Holdings. The acquired assets include the ColorCentric production facility located in Rochester, New York. The acquisition includes ColorCentric’s “printernet” software that drives personalized print-on-demand production of products that are produced by a network of printing companies located in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as in the United States. The ColorCentric model layers perfectly onto the RPI business-to-business model, producing photobooks and other personalized printed products for resellers.

Cruise all the available pages on the RPI and ColorCentric websites, and try as you might, you will not find the expected photobook app to build your own personalized photobook, calendar, holiday card or other printed items. Nor can you find a way to place an order. That’s because RPI, and the newly acquired ColorCentric, operate behind the scenes as “white label” back-end manufacturers for other online websites, large scale retailers and commercial print providers.

With financial backing from private equity firm Riverlake Partners and additional funding from HCAP Partners, RPI has added onto its original west-coast production platform, establishing RPI Europe in 2011 with the purchase of Paro, a printing company in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. In 2013, the company reached across the US to establish an east coast manufacturing facility with the acquisition of DPI in Atlanta, Georgia.

RPI was not originally a technology start-up, rather the company had its roots firmly in commercial and document printing, having been established in Seattle back in 1979 as Reischling Press. In what must have been a move fraught with risk and uncertainty, the company made the prescient decision in 2006 to jettison its commercial print division and shift exclusively to private label manufacturing for e-commerce companies. With the explosion of the market for on-demand printed products, now 
widely available online and also at retail big-box stores, it appears to have been a good move. 

However, with this latest deal, there appears to be a shift in strategy afoot at RPI: the acquisition from SoftPrint Holdings also included Picaboo.com, the consumer-facing website. In addition to the usual photobooks, calendars and holiday cards, Picaboo also offers the latest rage in consumer printed products, personalized home décor items including wall canvas prints, photo panels, metal prints, and fabric items such as personalized pillows and blankets. Unlike RPI, which started as a printing company, Picaboo was founded as a pure technology solution company in 2002 in the midst of the dot-com bust. With venture capital backing secured in 2004, the company launched its desktop photo album software in 2005, eventually transitioning to an exclusively browser-based application. In contrast to the ColorCentric platform, a visitor to Picaboo.com is quickly guided to build a personalized product and place a direct order.

With Picaboo, RPI will be up against some very formidable competition from the twin print personalization giants Shutterfly and Snapfish. Both are now owned by Apollo Global Management which purchased the companies three months ago. (See The Target Report: June 2019, Photobooks & Personalized Consumer Products).

We expect that there will be fallout in the market for photobooks and personalized products, which has rapidly matured along with the sophistication of online tools, digital printing technologies and automation to drive efficient print production. We checked back to see how another online photobook company, Chatbooks, is doing in this hypercompetitive market. With funding from Aries Capital Partners, the company appears to still be in the game, albeit with a much more limited offering than the competition. (To see their clever and entertaining consumer print marketing that is still worth a look and a laugh, see The Target Report: February 2017, Consumer Web-to-Print).

Packaging

Transcontinental continues its steady strategic transformation from a printing and publishing company into a packaging powerhouse. Canada’s largest printing company acquired Trilex, a plastics and packaging company in Ecuador that specializes in the production and sale of packaging materials and protective barriers for banana farmers. Further executing its two-prong transitional strategy (acquire packaging assets; divest publishing assets), Transcontinental sold the majority of its specialty media publications and event planning activities to the Contex Group and Newcom Media. (For more about the transformation of Transcontinental, including charts of acquisitions and divestitures since the company embarked on this journey, see The Target Report: April 2018, Getting Flexible in Your Middle Years).

Lebelink, based in Anjou, Quebec, acquired label printer Labelix, located in nearby Granby. Labelink produces a wide variety of products, including shrink sleeves and flexible packaging. The company has four facilities in Canada and one in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Commercial Printing and Diversified Services

Wise Business Forms, a print provider selling exclusively via print resellers and distributors, acquired Shawnee Systems, a trade-only print manufacturer located in Cincinnati, Ohio that produces business forms. Wise, headquartered in Alpharetta, Georgia, has five manufacturing locations, extending up the eastern coast to Maine and west to Indiana.

Commercial printing company, Range Printing, based in Brainerd, Minnesota announced the acquisition of Spectrum Marketing Services, a regional printing company with strength in the decorated apparel segment.

In an unusual move, three trade creditors of the defunct Colortree Group, which closed its doors abruptly in June, filed a petition in the US Bankruptcy Court in September to force the remnants of the company into an involuntary Chapter 7. Presumably, the creditors wanted to gain some court oversight of the process and have a seat at the table. The filing will mean that a trustee will be appointed to oversee the disposition of remaining assets to the unsecured creditors, if any, after satisfaction of administrative and secured claims. (See The Target Report: June 2019 M&A Activity).



2019 September - Mergers and Acquisitions in the Printing, Packaging, Paper & Related Industries

Deal Party #1
(Surviving Entity)
Pre-Deal
Revenues
($Mil )


Party #1 Address


Deal Party #2
Pre-Deal
Revenues
($Mil )


Party #2 Address
Date
Deal
Public
Deal
Value
($Mil)

Deal Structure
(Intermediary)


Notes

Press
Release
Range Printing No Data Brainerd, MN Spectrum Marketing Services No Data Little Falls, MN 9/30/19 No Data Acquisition Commercial printing Link
EO Media Group No Data The Bulletin
(Prop. Western Communications)
No Data Bend, OR 9/25/19 $0.8 363 Sale in Ch. 11 Community newspaper Link
RPI
(Port co. Riverlake Partners)
No Data Seattle, WA Picaboo.com
(Div. SoftPrint Holdings)
No Data Boise, ID 9/25/19 No Data Asset Acquisition Photobook printing Link
RPI
(Port co. Riverlake Partners)
No Data Seattle, WA ColorCentric / Printernet
(Div. SoftPrint Holdings)
No Data Rochester, NY 9/25/19 No Data Asset Acquisition Photobook printing Link
Vox Media No Data Washington, DC New York Media No Data New York, NY 9/24/19 No Data Acquisition Magazine publisher Link
Orafol No Data Oranienburg,
Germany
Kay Automotive Graphics No Data Lake Orion, MI 9/19/19 No Data Acquisition Industrial printing Link
Contex Group No Data Montreal, QC Specialty media assets
(Prop. Transcontinental)
No Data Montreal, QC 9/19/19 No Data Acquisition Business publications Link
Newcom Media No Data Etobicoke, ON Specialty media assets
(Prop. Transcontinental)
No Data Montreal, QC 9/19/19 No Data Acquisition Investment publications Link
Labelink No Data Anjou, QC Labelix No Data Granby, QC 9/18/19 No Data Acquisition Labels Link
Wise Business Forms No Data Alpharetta, GA Shawnee Systems No Data Cincinnati 9/18/19 No Data Acquisition Forms printing Link
East Arkansas Broadcasters No Data Jonesboro, AR Stuttgart Daily Leader
(Prop. Gatehouse Media)
No Data Stuttgart, AR 9/17/19 No Data Acquisition Community newspaper Link
Southland Printing No Data Shreveport, LA Digital Printing Systems No Data Azuza, CA 9/9/19 No Data Asset acquisition
(Strategic Growth)
Parking system tickets Link
Transcontinental $1,957 Montreal, QC Trilex No Data Guayaquil,
Ecuador
9/5/19 No Data Purchase of Majority Interest Plastic packaging Link
FCA Packaging
(Port co. Delos Capital)
No Data Moline, IL Transpak
(Div. Quad/Graphics)
No Data
($4,220)
Sussex, WI 9/4/19 $10.0 Acquisition Industrial wood crating Link
Curated Experiences Group No Data Tampa Bay, FL Editor and Publisher
(Prop. Duncan McIntosh Co.)
No Data Irvine, CA 9/3/19 No Data Acquisition Trade news publisher Link


2019 September - Bankruptcy Filings in the Printing, Packaging, Paper & Related Industries



Filing Party

Date
Case
Filed
Pre-Petition
Revenues
($Mil )



Case #



Filing Party Address



Circuit



Region & City



Judge



Attorney for Debtor



Notes
Chapter 11 Filings:
No Chapter 11 Filings Found this Month --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---
Chapter 7 Filings:
Colortree Group, Inc. 9/11/19 $57.0 19-34739 Richmond, VA 4th Eastern VA
Richmond
Keith L. Phillips Pro Se Direct mail & envelope printing


2019 September - Non-Bankruptcy Closures in the Printing, Packaging, Paper & Related Industries



Closed Company / Facility

Date of Closure
Pre-Closure
Revenues
($Mil )



Closing Address
Related Party Related Party
Address
Date Closure Public


Notes

Press
Releases
Midlands Printing 10/16/19 No Data Camden, SC N/A None Sep-19 Commercial printing Link
Lifetouch - Printing facility 11/6/19 No Data Loves Park, IL Lifetouch Eden Prairie, MN Sep-19 Yearbook printing Link