Page 14 - Print 21 Magazine March-April 2019
P. 14

Web Printing
Big end of town powers on
Nothing beats high-speed web printing for sheer power of performance. Big offset presses, several stories high, pounding through the night turning out massive numbers of printed newspapers, magazines, and catalogues is validation beyond question of the power of printing. It is a highly capitalised, highly competitive sector, with barriers of entry so stringent there will be few if any new entrants. With a new big manroland Goss Lithoman about to land for Ovato later this year Patrick Howard reviews the web landscape.
Something had to give. Three years ago there were five major commercial heatset web printers locked in a ferocious cost cutting battle;
PMP (now Ovato), IPMG, IVE Group, Franklin Web and AIW. They were a combination of old-fashioned family- owned businesses and publicly listed companies all competing at the bleeding edge of margins. Stealing magazine and catalogue volumes from one another on price was a death spiral that could only end in failure. Something had to give.
As always overcapacity was blamed for the attack prices. It made sense
to keep the massive presses running, even if the prices achieved barely covered costs. Bidding against one another, the only winners were the magazine publishers and the big catalogue clients. The catalogue sector has an estimated overall volume at around 400,000 tonnes per annum, which has proved relatively stable.
Ours faster than yours
Larger-than-life owners and operators revelled in a high-octane mix of ego and ambition, battling over who would come out on top. The prize was the dominant role in the highest stakes game in town. The tension could not have been higher.
In Sunshine, Victoria, Phil Taylor presided over Franklin Web, a
third generation printing business founded by Len Taylor in 1936. Widely recognised and respected as
a smart operator, if irascible bloke, he held a significant, if not dominant role, in catalogue printing. Engaged in a high-stakes investment game of one-upmanship as new multi-million dollar presses were introduced by his competition, he faced off primarily against Peter George, managing director of publicly listed PMP,
and Michael Hannan, chairman of family-owned IPMG, both larger companies run by ambitious and powerful identities.
14 Print21 MARCH/APRIL 2019
Then in 2017 it all changed. IPMG (Independent Print Media Group) merged with PMP in what essentially proved to be a reverse takeover. The ACCC took a good long hard look at the two largest printers in the region joining forces. The deal got the thumbs up, reversing a decision taken more than a decade before. As the major domino fell it set off a whole string of mergers and acquisitions.
Geoff Selig, scion of a leading print family in NSW, had taken
his diversified marketing services business, IVE Group, public two years before in prescient anticipation of just such an event. The company’s web business was based around WebStar, a Silverwater-based web printer with a significant share of the heatset magazine market. In taking IVE public he raised sufficient capital to be able to pay a mix of
Charles Garrard, AIW chairman at the time, said the company
was not immune to the effects of overcapacity in the sector.
For Taylor it put him on an equal footing with his adversaries. Before stepping back from day-to-day involvement he encouraged the expansion of Franklin Web to a greenfield site at Huntingwood, in Sydney’s west. IVE Group, as one
of the big two, was now a fitting competitor to PMP, which this year rebranded itself as Ovato. Between them they account for 95 per cent of the lucrative catalogue market.
Web printing is all about the machinery. In the past decade the industry has seen 48-page presses trumped by 64-pages, then to 80-pages and latterly the largest
in the country, a manroland Goss 96-page Lithoman press. The
price tag has similarly climbed with the latest Ovato addition reported to be costing in the region of $24m. Following the frenzy of consolidation, IVE Group emerges with three plants. A new Rotoman 65 web powers up the Web Star
“IVE’s new Huntingwood plant forced Ovato to revisit its press investment strategy.”
equity and debt of $116m for Taylor’s Franklin Web, as well as buying out Melbourne web printer, AIW.
manroland Goss Lithoman: press of choice for Aussie web sector

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