KBA becomes Koenig & Bauer again

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KBA becomes Koenig & Bauer again
Koenig & Bauer chief executive officer Claus Bolza-Schünemann speaks at the 200 anniversary press conference at the Wuzburg more than 150 year-old Wurzburg site of the company. Photo IPP

With almost 700 guests from all over the world, Koenig & Bauer celebrated its 200th anniversary in the Vogel Convention Center (VCC) on 21 September. Many of the participants took the opportunity to visit the parent plant in Würzburg. In addition to state-of-the-art production facilities and the new Demo Center for digital and flexo printing presses—soon to be equipped with machines—they experienced historical and current printing presses in production from the broad portfolio of the oldest printing press manufacturer. A circular motion press from the year 1868 printed an engraving of the company’s birthplace, the monastery Oberzell, a Super Olof Intaglio III press printed a specimen banknote, the Genius 52UV from KBA-NotaSys printed a security document, the digital web press RotaJET L printed, among other things, a 2.2-meter long poster of the Würzburg-born basketball star Dirk Nowitzki, who plays in Dallas, USA, since many years. And the world’s largest inkjet press, the HP T1100S, produced for HP by Koenig & Bauer, printed a 2.8-meter wide topliner for corrugated board.

In a multimedia show, the eventful history of the company was presented from 1817 to the present day. An employee evening in the large marquee and an open day for the visitors, with over 10,000 expected, rounded off the colorful anniversary program.

Print products for the whole day
In a well-attended international press conference, Claus Bolza-Schünemann, chief executive officer, Koenig & Bauer described several milestones in the last 200 years. He made particular mention of the acquisitions made over the last 25 years, which have continued in the past decade in spite of the economic crisis of 2008 and made the company more diversified with a stronger focus in all types of packaging print. The company has resigned itself to the rapidly shrinking of newspaper and magazine market and looks to expand its service offerings in that sphere.

Earnings and share price reflect successful strategy
With the introduction of a holding structure and a clear focus by the operating companies on their respective market segments, Koenig & Bauer largely completed its comprehensive reorientation in 2015, after the 2009 slump in the printing industry. Thanks to its strong position in growth and special markets such as the packaging and security printing sectors, Koenig & Bauer achieved the best result in the company’s history in 2016, with an EBIT of EUR 87.1 million. The increase in the share price from EUR 10 at the beginning of 2015 to significantly over EUR 60 now reflects the company’s convincing strategy and development. 

The company hopes to add EUR 70 million to its profits in the 4-year period from 2017 to 2021, with EUR 20 million each coming from increased profits in the servicing and security printing businesses. Profits are expected to also be enhanced in this time from internal savings of Eur 15 million each, from improved integrated production processes and strategic purchasing by the group, which has more than a dozen specialized entities. 

Growth in packaging and industrial printing
Chief financial officer Dr Mathias Dähn presented the corporate goals and strategies for the years to come. He said, “After a decade of declining sales, growth has become the central pillar of our corporate strategy. All business units should contribute to this and work profitably.” In view of the growth of the world economy, the world population, online commerce and the number of single-person households, he sees particular opportunities in the packaging sector. The company is already the market leader in the printing of cardboard, metal and glass packaging.

Koenig & Bauer wants to improve its market share further in flexible packaging printing where its acquisition of Flexotecnica has only yielded a 6% market share thus far and where the management has been reorganized in the past year. The Iberica diecutter acquisition in 2016 has already gained traction according to Dähn. 

Koenig & Bauer is making progress in the digital arena with its heavy metal manufacture and with collaborations. Bolza-Schünemann announced the order of the first digital CorruJET sheetfed press for corrugated board from a German customer. Dähn described the cooperation with HP in digital inkjet printing for the corrugated board segment as successful and future-oriented.

According to him, the Koenig & Bauer Group has set itself a goal for the anniversary year of 2017, with a group turnover of approximately EUR 1.25 billion and an EBIT margin of around 6 %. The planning for the period up to 2021 provides for a growth in sales of 4% p.a. and, depending on the development of the world economy, an annual EBIT margin between 4% and 9%. 

25sepBuilding 4524A remnant of the old structures at the Koenig & Bauer plant in Wurzburg — there was great destruction of the plant building during the allied bombing in World War II. Photo IPP

Relaunch of the Koenig & Bauer brand
The printing press manufacturer is starting off the company’s 3rd century with a new market appearance. As Bolza-Schünemann explained, the brand KBA, which was introduced in 1990 after the takeover of Albert-Frankenthal AG, will revert to the original brand of Koenig & Bauer, albeit with a completely new look for the logo, “Koenig & Bauer AG today has 33 subsidiaries. Twelve of them produce their own products for their own customers. We see the company anniversary as an ideal time to place all activities of the Group, from classic printing to digital printing, including prepress, postpress and top service, under a strong common roof again.” According to him, “The relaunch is intended to strengthen the employee’s pride in the history of the company and the pride of new employees, who have joined the Group through acquisitions, in the common brand Koenig & Bauer, and to allow old and new customers to feel the strength of this traditional brand even more, with a modern appearance and product design.”

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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– Naresh Khanna

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