Vendor mergers mean ‘fewer, bigger’ – what about ‘better’?

The past couple of months have seen the break-up of Blue Star, whose trans-Tasman experiment failed miserably.

On the supply side, the ‘fewer, bigger’ consolidation play has been relentless and, it seems, largely successful.

As we went to print, press maker Ryobi, which has a growing share of the Australian market thanks to the efforts of reseller Cyber, was in talks to join forces with fellow Japanese sheetfed manufacturer Mitsubishi, which has been an outside player for some time and has very little presence in Australia that I know of.

Meanwhile, digital vendor Xeikon, a company praised for its technology but with an underwhelming share of the Australian market, has become an acquisition target.

I mention these suppliers’ footprints in Australia because market share is integral to any conversation about M&A among manufacturers.

Critics might say that a reduction in the number of suppliers reduces the choices available to printers. But there is no point having great technology without service to back it up. No matter how good the technology, printers want guarantees their investment will be supported. Suppliers without a strong presence risk being sidelined.

Suppliers who drive a ‘fewer, bigger’ approach are seeing the fruits of their labour. I was a guest of EFI at its Las Vegas conference last month.

Few suppliers have such an ambitious acquisition policy. The success of EFI’s M&A spree can be seen in its recent full-year results, with record sales and a surge in profits.

EFI is by no means alone. Many suppliers have grown their portfolios, whether through M&A or strategic alliances. Think of Heidelberg’s numerous partnerships or Manroland’s PrintCom range. Many customers also simply prefer to deal with a single source.

This trend has inspired ProPrint to launch a brand new section in this month’s issue. Our new ‘Fantasy Fit-out’ feature allows one supplier to fill up an imaginary print room with the products they supply. The inaugural supplier is Fujifilm, a firm that has divers­ified into growth markets. 

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