Koenig & Bauer with 10.2% higher order intake

Growth offensive 2023 has particularly high priority


The year 2019 started well for the Koenig & Bauer group, posting a double-digit increase in order intake in the first quarter year-over-year to € 276.4 million. This strong growth, exceeding the industry average, was underpinned by more orders for services and for folding carton, direct glass and security printing presses. At € 230.7 million, revenue exceeded the previous year’s figure by 6.2%. EBIT was still slightly negative due to the low revenue level, coming to –€ 2.8 million despite high market-entry and growth-related expenses, and was thus not far off the previous year’s figure of –€ 1.9 million. At –€ 4.9 million, group net earnings in the first quarter of 2019 translates into earnings per share of –€ 0.30.

Strong order intake in sheetfed

In addition to good service orders, the substantially higher orders for packaging printing presses caused order intake in the sheetfed segment to rise by 12.4% to € 173.5 million. Revenue increased slightly by 1.8% to € 113 million. The good order backlog of € 250.5 million ensures continued high capacity utilization. At –€ 3.1 million, EBIT was below the previous year’s figure (€ 0.4 million) due to the product mix and the costs arising in connection with the Print China trade fair.

Growth expenses burden digital and web earnings

Despite the strong growth in service business, orders in digital and web came down to € 31.9 million , falling short of the previous year’s figure of € 45.2 million due to lower orders for newspaper and flexible packaging printing presses. At € 32.4 million, revenue remained at the same level. The previous year’s figure of € 32.5 million had been spurred by high service revenue due to large press relocations. At –€ 5.6 million (–€ 4.5 million in the previous year), EBIT was burdened by market-entry and growth-related expenses. At € 85.4 million, order backlog and capacity utilization are at a high level.

Significant order and revenue growth in special

More orders for services and presses for security printing and direct glass decorating caused order intake in the special segment to rise by 37.7% to € 80 million. Revenue climbed by 20.8% to € 92.8 million. At € 331.7 million, the order backlog at the end of March was 6.2% higher than it had been twelve months earlier. Following a segment profit of € 3.8 million in the previous year, EBIT came to € 2 million in the first quarter of 2019.

Solid balance sheet and financial profile

Despite substantially lower receivables and higher customer pre-payments, the increase in inventories for revenue growth in future quarters as well as high investments for construction and IT projects left traces on the cash flow. In addition, K&B made a part payment of CHF 20 million to the Swiss Office of the attorney general within the framework of the agreed skimming of profits following the completion of the self-disclosure proceedings in connection with shortcomings in corruption prevention at the Swiss subsidiary KBA-NotaSys SA. Together with its internal liquidity, the syndicated long-term credit facilities give Koenig & Bauer a strong and stable financial basis. The equity ratio stood at 37.5% at the end of March 2019.

Guidance for 2019

The chief financial officer, Mathias Dähn says, “The order backlog, which rose to € 656.6 million as of 31 March 2019, gives us good forward visibility through to autumn 2019 and, in security printing with its good order situation, until 2020. With contract signings exceeding our expectations and reaching a figure in the mid double-digit millions of Euros, the Print China trade fair held in mid-April was very successful. We are attaching particularly high priority to our growth offensive 2023, the cumulative costs of which we expect to reach around € 50 million for 2019 to 2021, with a heavier load in the first year. The resulting margin impact is already included in our 2019 earnings target.”

Mid-term targets until 2023

The chief executive officer, Claus Bolza-Schünemann says, “With our growth offensive 2023, we want to actively exploit the currently available market opportunities in the cardboard, corrugated board, flexible packaging, 2-piece can, marking and coding, glass direct and decor printing as well as in postpress to achieve sustained profitable growth. The impact of volatile security printing will be reduced by higher packaging share of group revenue. For web offset presses for newspaper and commercial printing, we expect a further decline particularly in service business. With all our initiatives and projects, we are targeting to increase group revenue to around € 1.5 billion with an EBIT margin of between 7% and 10% until 2023. All three segments are to contribute to the growth in revenue and earnings. Our further targets include a dividend ratio of 15-35% of group net profit, an equity ratio of over 45%, a target corridor for net working capital of 20-25% of revenue, and a share of 30% in total revenue for service business.”

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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