Flint Group up for sale since late 2019

Debt refinancing in next two weeks seen as a precondition to sale process

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Flint Group ink manufacturing plant in Savli, Vadodara
Flint Group ink manufacturing plant in Savli, Vadodara

A Reuters report on 27 May 2021 said that the Flint Group is nearing the completion of a debt refinancing deal seen as a precondition for selling the company, a process initiated in late 2019. However, the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the sales process. Goldman Sachs’ private equity arm and Koch Equity Development, a subsidiary of Koch Industries, are the current owners.

Flint Group EBITDA data during the pandemic

Flint Group has seen its sales decrease in the past 17 months of the Covid-19 pandemic, and guesstimates of its 2020 EBITDA vary from Euro 200 million to Euro 220 million. The group’s EBITDA was Euro 266 million in 2019. It is negotiating with lenders to restructure or amend its financing of Euro 1.7 billion in the next few weeks for perhaps another two years at slightly better rates.

The former US-based Flint Ink became the second-largest printing ink maker globally in 2005 when it merged with XSYS Print Solutions, created in 2004 by combining the ink units of BASF and Akzo Nobel Inks. The larger merger was renamed the Flint Group, with headquarters in Luxembourg.

In 2007 Flint Group acquired Day International, a pressroom consumable supplier. Goldman Sachs private equity and Koch Industries acquired the group in 2014 at a reported valuation exceeding Euro 2.2 billion.

Even before the merger, Flint Inks had grown in North America by acquiring smaller ink companies. It had started a digital inkjet press development group that it sold to EFI when the global ink merger took place. Later, it went on to acquire Xeikon, which manufactures digital presses and flexo plate equipment.

Flint also manufactures polymer plates for flexography, and it became equipment, plate, and ink supplier to that segment of the label and packaging industry. Ironically in January 2021, the group revived the XSYS branding for its flexo plates, sleeves, and exposing systems.

It is reported that the bulk of the group’s profit comes from the packaging industry and the rest from ink. However, it is likely to be the reverse in India since the Flint Group has two ink manufacturing plants producing commercial newspaper inks and packaging inks. Press reports are guessing that the sale process could split the company, which currently employs 6,800 worldwide.

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.

It is the right time to support our high-impact reporting and authoritative and technical information with some of the best correspondents in the industry. Readers can power Packaging South Asia’s balanced industry journalism and help sustain us by subscribing.

– Naresh Khanna

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Editor of Indian Printer and Publisher since 1979 and Packaging South Asia since 2007. Trained as an offset printer and IBM 360 computer programmer. Active in the movement to implement Indian scripts for computer-aided typesetting. Worked as a consultant and trainer to the Indian print and newspaper industry. Visiting faculty of IDC at IIT Powai in the 1990s. Also founder of IPP Services, Training and Research and has worked as its principal industry researcher since 1999. Author of book: Miracle of Indian Democracy.

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