Author Archive

  • Fairfax & News dismiss Deloitte’s radical newspaper plant closure plan

    Fairfax Media and News Corp say they’ve dismissed a proposal by their hired business advisor Deloitte to close five newspaper printing plants across NSW, Victoria and Queensland. 

    Print21 has seen a draft copy of a confidential 18-page document titled Project Rain, prepared by Deloitte Consulting in January 2018, which outlines a range of consolidation options including five site closures over the next two years. Under a plan that would reshape the local newspaper publishing landscape, Fairfax plants at North Richmond and Beresfield in NSW would be shut down and consolidated into News’ Chullora, and News Corp’s Port Melbourne print site, located on valuable real estate land, would be folded into Fairfax Ballarat. Another proposal is the closure of both News Corp’s Murarrie site in Brisbane and its Warwick plant in south-east Queensland.

    The consolidation would consist of closing five sites across NSW, VIC and QLD and setting printing agreements in each state, says the Deloitte report.

    An excerpt from Project Rain (January 2018).

    There are two options outlined for News Corp’s Queensland business. Murarrie in Brisbane, which prints the Courier Mail, would close in December, with the publishing operation transferred to News’ Yandina site and Fairfax’s plant at Ormiston. A second option would consolidate Fairfax Ormiston into an expanded Murarrie. “Two options available and decision required,” says Deloitte in a note.

    Between 300-400 print workers would be made redundant under the plan, according to an industry source.

    In what’s described as a ‘theoretical best case scenario,’ the report proposed beginning extension work at Fairfax Ballarat VIC and at News Corp’s Yandina QLD in March 2018.

    An excerpt from Project Rain (January 2018).

    Approached for comment, the companies issued similar statements dismissing the Deloitte proposal as ‘redundant.’

    “Deloitte assisted Fairfax and News Corp with some scoping work around printing options,” said a Fairfax Media spokesperson. “Both companies have previously announced to the market that we have been exploring options around printing. The plans and assumptions outlined in the document are completely redundant and were found not to be feasible. Fairfax and News continue to have productive discussions around printing options.”

    A News Corp spokesperson said: “The document you refer to is a redundant scoping document and none of the material it contains is of any relevance today.”

    The unions are less than convinced. “It seems strange that they would pay a lot of money to a company like Deloitte to prepare a report and then put it on the scrapheap,” says the AMWU’s national print division secretary, Lorraine Cassin. 

    ‘Deeper strategic opportunities’: Greg Hywood, CEO Fairfax Media.

    The AMWU will meet with senior management at News Corp next month to discuss the consolidation plans. “There’s all sorts of rumours out there about what they’re looking at and what sort of collaboration will be taking place, which is affecting the morale of our members,” says Cassin. “We don’t want to be blindsided by an announcement and what we’re saying to the companies is: be transparent, let’s deal with this together.”

    Fairfax and News Corp have been talking for some time about sharing print facilities and collaborating on newspaper distribution in Australia. In February, Fairfax appointed a team of advisers to pursue ‘deeper strategic opportunities’ with News after posting a 54 percent fall in net profit to $38.5m in the first six months.

    “We expect greater industry cooperation will deliver significant benefits,” Fairfax chief executive Greg Hywood told the ASX at the time. “We have progressed our recent positive discussions with News Corp Australia to seek industry-wide efficiencies in printing and distribution. We have had successful collaborations around shared trucking and printing titles for News in Queensland. Building on this collaboration, we have appointed advisers to pursue deeper strategic opportunities.”

  • Pro-Pac in $60m double acquisition

    ASX-listed Pro-Pac Packaging Group (PPG), chaired by former Australia Post boss Ahmed Fahour, will raise $59.8 million to buy Victoria-based Perfection Packaging and NZ company Polypak.

    Pro-Pac has agreed to pay $49.8 million for flexible packaging manufacturer Perfection, which employs 100 staff at its 6,000 sq. metre factory in Dandenong South in Melbourne’s south-east. Polypak, a soft flexible packaging manufacturer and distributor based in Auckland, will be acquired for $NZ8.8 million.

    ‘A significant milestone’: Ahmed Fahour, chairman, PPG.

    “The acquisitions of Perfection Packaging (Aust) and Polypak (NZ) represent a significant milestone in PPG’s vision to become the flexible and industrial packaging manufacturer and distribution leader in Australia and New Zealand,” PPG chairman Ahmed Fahour told the ASX. “I take this opportunity to thank existing shareholders for their continued support and to welcome a number of new institutional and retail shareholders to the PPG register as we begin this journey.”

    Principals of Polypak and Perfection Packaging will stay on with PPG and integrate into PPG leadership and operations teams.

    The deals will be funded by a capital raising that will include: a $55.8m two tranche fully underwritten placement at $0.34 per share; and a $4.0m fully underwritten Share Purchase Plan at $0.34 per share. $9.96m of PPG shares will also be issued to Perfection Packaging vendors at $0.39 per share. 

    Major PPG shareholder Bennamon, Fahour and non-executive director Rupert Harrington will “participate in placement to maintain their current level of shareholding and conditional on shareholder approval.”

    Perfection Packaging, Dandenong South, VIC.

    Perfection Packaging, established in the 1970s, has a forecast production of 80 million meters a year of printed laminate ‘hard flexible’ primary packaging. Its manufacturing infrastructure was expanded earlier this year to now include five printing presses, three laminators and five slitters.

    The Polypak plant in Glenfield, Auckland.

    Polypak, established 1978, is specialist soft flexibles packaging manufacturer and distributor of high-quality polyethylene bags, film and tubes, supplying mainly primary food processors including meat, poultry & fish markets, via its production plant in North Harbour, Auckland, where it employs 28 people.

    PPG says the acquisitions will: provide an entry into the larger hard flexibles segment; deliver significant cost synergies to consolidate its Australian manufacturing network; open access to new markets and products complementing the existing business; increase the diversification of revenues, geographies and customers; and strengthen PPGs leadership and operations teams.

    In September 2017, PPG signed a $177.5 million merger deal with flexible packager Integrated Packaging Group (IPG), the third-biggest flexible packaging manufacturing company in Australia. The combined business was projected to have annual sales of more than $450 million.

    ‘A period of substantial transformation’: Grant Harrod CEO PPG

    In a trading update this week, PPG says it expects to generate earnings before tax of between $34m-$35m in FY18, and between $46m-$47m in FY19 – subject to no adverse market conditions.

    “The FY18 year has been a period of substantial transformation as the company establishes itself as a leader in the industrial and flexible packaging sector,” says PPG CEO Grand Harrod. “The company is now very well advanced in the integration of the IPG acquisition it completed recently and will further benefit from both synergy savings and new growth opportunities with the Perfection Packaging and PolyPak acquisitions. Both acquisitions further strengthen our growth strategy, in particular our reach into the higher growth food based primary packaging market.”

    The Polypak deal is due to be settled later this week, while the acquisition of Perfection Packaging is scheduled to be completed on 6 September.

  • Xerox ‘moving forward’ into Australia/NZ

    Xerox Corp has slammed a $1 billion lawsuit filed by Fujifilm over their failed merger bid as “desperate” and announced plans to sell Xerox products directly into the growing Asia Pacific market.

    In a letter to Fujifilm chairman Shigetaka Komori, new Xerox CEO John Visentin said litigation filed in New York last week by Fujifilm against Xerox was “nothing more than a desperate, misguided negotiating ploy” to save the takeover proposal.

    “Enormous opportunity”: John Visentin, CEO Xerox Corp.

    Visentin pointed to a $450 million accounting scandal at Fuji Xerox subsidiaries in New Zealand and Australia as evidence of the Japanese company’s mismanagement.

    “No matter what you tell the Japanese media, it is abundantly clear that the bad actor here is Fujifilm, not Xerox. Fujifilm, as 75% owner and controlling partner of Fuji Xerox, has concealed from Xerox the true extent of a massive and ongoing accounting fraud at Fuji Xerox caused by Fujifilm’s own gross mismanagement.” 

    Visentin says Fujifilm’s expectation that Xerox will come to Fujifilm with a new proposal for a combination transaction “is simply delusional. It will not happen.”

    The Xerox CEO says the iconic US company is now focused on moving forward alone on several fronts in the Asia-Pacific region to protect its supply chain.

    “First, we will start, in a material way, to source products from new vendors. Second, we will build partnerships with companies that are aligned with the Xerox mission to provide world-class technology and solutions. Third, we currently believe Xerox will be much better served by not renewing our Technology Agreement with Fuji Xerox when it expires. We will detail for our shareholders the enormous opportunity for Xerox to sell products directly into the growing Asia-Pacific market with sole and exclusive use of the valuable Xerox name, and a more efficient, better managed supply chain than exists with Fuji Xerox today.”

    Xerox says it is moving to begin sourcing product from suppliers other than Fuji Xerox and dismissed suggestions by Fujifilm executives that Xerox was unlikely to survive on its own in a shrinking global office equipment market.

    “Nothing could be further from the truth,” Visentin said. “In fact, it is actually Fuji Xerox, which is responsible for nearly half of Fujifilm’s total revenue, that could potentially suffer ruinous consequences from the loss of over $1 billion of revenue from Xerox, its single largest customer. And legally, there is nothing Fujifilm can do to stop that from happening. The New York State Supreme Court has already enjoined Fujifilm from taking any action toward consummating the ill-advised takeover, and it follows that no court would allow Fuji Xerox to take adverse, punitive actions toward Xerox’s supply chain as we begin sourcing away from Fuji Xerox, which we are clearly permitted to do.”

    In response, Fujifilm issued a statement dismissing Xerox’s plan. “It is again no surprise to hear Xerox’s pretense to sell its products directly into the growing Asia-Pacific market. However, realistically speaking, we believe that it would be extremely difficult for Xerox – which does not currently possess any marketing channel in Asia – to build its own channel from scratch.”

  • JCDecaux to pay $1.2b for APN Outdoor

    JCDecaux street screen at Pitt St Mall, Sydney.

    In the outdoor advertising industry’s second major consolidation deal in 24 hours, French giant JCDecaux has agreed to pay $1.2 billion to buy APN Outdoor, one of the two biggest players in the local market.

    On Monday, rival oOh!media signed a $570 million deal to acquire HT&E’s outdoor business Adshel.

    In a flurry of activity over the past week, APN had lobbed its own bid for Adshel before JCDecaux stepped in with an offer to buy APN – on condition it did not continue its bid for Adshel.

    ‘A significant milestone’: JCDecaux co-CEO Jean-Francois Decaux.

    JCDecaux co-chief executive offer Jean-Francois Decaux said on Tuesday the agreement was a significant milestone for the global company.

    “APN Outdoor is very complementary to our existing street furniture assets and through this acquisition, JCDecaux will be attractively positioned to provide a compelling proposition to compete more effectively in the Australian media market where Out-of-Home accounts for 6 per cent of advertising spend, of which almost 50 per cent is digital.”  Decaux said he was also “delighted” to be entering the “fast-growing” New Zealand market.

    APN chief executive and MD James Warburton told the ASX that the agreement was an “excellent outcome” for shareholders, partners and the company’s 13,000 employees. “JCDecaux is a leading global out-of-home company with more than one million advertising panels in more than 80 countries, more than 13,000 employees and 2017 revenue of 3,493 million.”

    oOh!media CEO Brendon Cook told Print21 the Adshel deal would provide significant opportunities for growth.

    “The acquisition gives us the opportunity to provide our advertisers with a comprehensive Out Of Home offering as it adds transit and street furniture to our already diverse portfolio. It also opens up opportunities new local government opportunities.  One of the requirements of local government is you have a strong operational capability to manage and service the street furniture assets – this acquisition give us that capability.”

     The deal requires oOh!media to stop using the Adshel brand within three months.

    HT&E chairman Peter Cosgrove announced his retirement after the agreement was announced.  “The company is at a pivotal point,” he said. “The divestment of Adshel is a good result for shareholders and provides a number of strong capital management initiatives to further strengthen the business.”

    Both deals are subject to approval by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). JCDecaux’s acquisition of APN Outdoor must also go before the Foreign Investment Review Board and the New Zealand Overseas Investment Office.

    According to researcher IBISWorld, APN Outdoor and oOh!Media are the two biggest companies in the billboards and outdoor advertising market in Australia.

    Last year, the ACCC blocked an attempted merger between the two market leaders.

  • Opus to exit ASX in expansion plan 

    CanPrint’s facility at Nyrang Street, Fyshwick, ACT.

    The Hong Kong owners of ASX-listed Opus Group – which includes Australian printers Ligare, CanPrint and McPherson’s – have laid out a radical business restructure proposal to delist from the Australian Stock Exchange, ‘re-domicile’ the company from Australia to tax haven Bermuda and apply for a listing on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong.

    The plan, revealed in an announcement to the ASX, includes the expansion of its existing Australian printing businesses.

    Opus Group Limited has entered into a Scheme Implementation Agreement under which it is proposed that Opus will re-domicile from Australia to Bermuda and list on the Main Board of the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong.

     The re-domiciliation is proposed to be implemented by a scheme of arrangement under which Opus shareholders will exchange their securities in Opus for securities in a newly incorporated Bermudan entity, Left Field Printing Group Limited (TopCo) on the basis of three TopCo shares for every one Opus share. Once the listing approval from the HKEx has become unconditional, TopCo will list on the HKEx and Opus will be delisted from the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX).

    ‘We are planning for an expansion’: Opus chairman Richard Celarc.

    The board of Opus has recommended that all Opus shareholders vote in favour of the scheme and declared a special dividend of 13 cents per share. Shareholders can receive the dividend in the form of Opus shares or cash.

    “Our business objective is to retain our position as a leading one stop print and services provider in Australia, including end-to-end printing solutions and services,” Opus executive chairman Richard Celarc told Print21. “We will continue to maintain investment in key machinery and equipment to enhance our production capabilities, expand and streamline our printing and warehousing facilities; and grow our business strategically through merger, acquisition and business collaborations.

    “We are planning for an expansion and streamlining of our printing and warehousing facilities in CanPrint, which will enable us to provide end-to-end printing solutions and services to our customers.  We are also planning to increase our production capacity and efficiency by purchasing suitable machinery, including digital print presses and binding machines.”

    Celarc says the ‘re-domicile’ scheme will allow shareholders to take advantage of higher market liquidity, increased trading and investment activities and expected uplift in the company’s market capitalisation, as well as increasing the ability to attract strategic investors and improve fiscal efficiencies.

    In its application to the HKEx, the Opus board provided an overview of the business and outlined plans for the expansion of its local printing operations.

    Our printed products include read-for-pleasure books, government printed matters, quick turnaround time education books and catalogues, operating manuals and promotional leaflets. According to the Frost & Sullivan Report, in terms of revenue generated in 2017, we are the largest government segment printing services provider within the large commercial printing industry in Australia (ranking fifth largest in the overall commercial printing sector in Australia) and the largest printing services provider in the book printing industry in Australia.

     The size of the commercial printing industry for enterprises and government segments as well as the book printing market in Australia is expected to continue to grow, which will continue to benefit or group’s future prospects.

    Ligare book printing and publishing, Sydney.

     For each of the last three years, the company’s revenue was $80.7 million, $87 million and $79.2 million and profit after tax was $7.2 million, $5.5 million and $5.7 million. Ligare, CanPrint and McPherson’s were equipped with 17 major printing presses and binding machines as at 31 March 2018 and more are on the way. 

    We schedule to purchase additional machinery in order to expand our production capacity. Such purchases will include one additional new digital printing press and three binding machines. We also propose to purchase replacement machinery in order to enhance our efficiency including three digital printing presses, two binding machines and one pre-press machine…we also propose to purchase additional warehousing equipment to cope with our expansion in production capacity…the total expenditure to purchase such machinery and equipment is estimated to be approximately [redacted].

    The company also floated the possibility of relocating its government printing specialist CanPrint.

    The current set up and arrangement of our machinery and equipment within our production facilities may not be organised in a manner which allows us to operate at an optimum level of efficiency and effectiveness…management would consider a potential relocation or reorganisation of our CanPrint facility under a single production and warehousing facility to accommodate the expected expansion of capacity and streamline our business.

    Opus shareholders are expected to vote on the scheme in early September 2018. If they agree with the plan – and if the company receives listing approval from the HKEx – Opus Group will be re-domiciled to Bermuda, TopCo will list on the HKEx and Opus will be delisted from the ASX within the fourth quarter of 2018.

    update:

    Celarc emphasised that the printing businesses of Ligare, CanPrint and McPherson’s will continue to be proud local employers providing Australian made products and services and meeting all Australian regulatory requirements and obligations. 

    .

     

     

  • ‘Uncovered openings’ at fatal gas leak site

    Norske Skog’s paper mill near Albury, NSW.

    An investigation into a gas leak that claimed the lives of two workers at Norske Skog’s Albury paper mill has found that deadly hydrogen sulphide gas leaked from “uncovered openings” at the site.

    The finding was revealed in a safety alert issued this week by SafeWork NSW titled Exposure of workers to hydrogen sulphide gas.

    In an email response to questions, a spokesperson for SafeWork NSW told Print21 there would be no further comment until the investigation is completed:

     SafeWork NSW issued a safety alert on 12 June 2018 to help NSW workplaces that may use, generate, store or handle hydrogen sulphide (H2S) gas, to identify sources of potential exposure and manage risks to health and safety. The SafeWork NSW investigation into the Norske Skog paper mill incident remains ongoing, and no further comment on the investigation will be made until it is completedSafeWork NSW will be preparing a Report for the Coroner.

    In its safety notice published earlier this week SafeWork said:

    Hydrogen sulphide is found during the production and drilling of crude oil and natural gas, in sewers and sewage treatment plants, in swine and manure-handling operations, and in pulp and paper operations. 

    In the pulp and paper industry hydrogen sulphide may result from cooking processes, acid cleaning equipment and the mixing of acids with process liquors which can produce large volumes of gas, even in open environments. It can also be produced when separate acid and process sewers come together in effluent ponds.

    Recently two workers died at a paper mill, likely due to breathing in high levels of hydrogen sulphide gas from a tank used for containing process water. Uncovered openings allowed the gas to escape and overcome the workers.

    Mill workers Ben Pascall and Lyndon Quinliven died after being overcome by the gas fumes. A third man, Ben Johnson, was released from hospital last week after spending several days in a critical condition on life support.

    Production resumed at the Albury plant this week after being shut down last month following the incident.

    “It’s massively important for the morale of the employees, everybody seems anxious to get back to work and spend some time with their mates and get the machine running,” plant manager Milo Foster told The Border Mail. “It’s just a massive tragedy, I don’t think things will ever be quite the same, but people have been able to grieve.”

  • IVE to print next federal election ballots

    Voters at the last federal election.

    IVE Group has signed a $2.1 million contract extension to its now $4.8 million deal with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) for the printing of ballot papers for the next federal election.

    The original agreement covered printing, packaging and storing of ballots for the 2016 federal election and was later amended to include by-elections in Bennelong and New England.

    The extension until December 2019 will include the production and printing of ballot materials for the next federal election, which Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says “should take place in April or May 2019.”

    IVE also signed a new $300,000 contract with the AEC for the printing and packaging of ballot materials for multiple industrial relations elections in Victoria.

    Elsewhere, the Department of Defence updated a $1.4 million printed publications contract for “F111 Publications” from a supplier with a New York, US postal address.

    Melbourne-based Objective 3D signed a $479,088.50 contract to supply a 3D printing system to the federal government’s scientific research body the CSIRO.

    Konica Minolta Business Solutions in the ACT won an extension to a now $626,587 contract to supply the Department of Home Affairs with YSoft Swipe to Print software.

  • PIAA welcomes extra money in QLD budget

    PIAA president Walter Kuhn (right) meets with Federal Labour leader Bill Shorten.

    Printing Industries has given a qualified ‘thumbs-up’ to the Queensland budget, welcoming a funding boost for training and an ongoing payroll tax offset for taking on trainees. “It’s a start,” says PIAA president Walter Kuhn.

    The peak industry body pointed to four major positives in the Palaszczuk Government’s Budget that was delivered this week:

    1. More than $770 million will be invested in the Vocational Education and Training (VET) Investment Plan.
    2. $85 million over three years for TAFE facilities.
    3. $1.3 million to support Queensland Apprentices.
    4. $26 million to extend the 50 per cent payroll tax rebate scheme for apprentices and trainees Education.

    “It’s not a bad budget but it’s not a good budget either,” says Kuhn. “The $26 million to extend the payroll tax rebate will certainly assist all employers and help to increase employment in the printing sector. Employers carry the burden for the first 6-12 months in an apprentice’s first year when they’re not very productive and this kind of funding is essential to encourage companies to take on more apprentices.”

    Kuhn says PIAA lobbying of Queensland government departments has been successful in raising awareness of the problems facing print training. “We’ve had some good wins,” he says.

    “The $770 million for the VET and an $85 million boost in TAFE training will go a long way to help industry training, while $1.3 million for Queensland apprentice training is not enough by far.”

    Kuhn believes the Queensland Labor government needs better targeted industry funding that will deliver more money to where it’s going to be most effective – especially for employers taking on apprentices – rather than “feel-good scenarios. It’s not a great budget but it’s a start, and our lobbying for the industry will continue.”

  • Media Super salutes 30th with strong results

    ‘A rock-solid supporter of the printing industry’: Graeme Russell, CEO Media Super

    Print and media industry fund Media Super celebrated its 30th birthday with another year of double-digit returns to finish in the top 15 of Australian super funds.

    Media Super’s Balanced (MySuper) option – in which most members are invested – returned 11.53% for the financial year to 30 June 2017, compared to the median return of 10.53%. The pension Balanced investment option returned 12.49 percent, well ahead of the median return of 11.23%.

     “We’re very happy with the results, with our Balanced (MySuper) returning a very strong result for the 75 percent of our members who are invested in that option,” says Graeme Russell, CEO Media Super.

    Media Super’s Balanced (MySuper) option is diversified across shares, property, infrastructure, fixed interest and cash investments, as well as various alternative investments, such as R&D and the Fulcrum film and television financing fund.

    Russell believes the printing industry has generally stabilised in recent times and he’s optimistic about the future.

    “The changes in the printing and media industry over the past 30 years have been quite massive and the printing industry has faced with some very significant challenges over the past five or six years with a lot of job losses as people moved away from using print media. But my assessment is that it now seems to have stabilised somewhat. A lot of major printing companies have sorted themselves out by upgrading or modernising equipment and are seeking out new opportunities, there are a lot of success stories involving smaller, innovative printers and there’s been an expansion in the graphic design sector, with more people now working in that space.

    “There is still some shakeout to come, especially with smaller, family-owned printers, and we are working closely with the PIAA to help those companies develop into becoming 21st century businesses or to transition out of the industry.”

    Russell is also optimistic that recent changes to media ownership laws will create a more level playing field for Australian media companies. “You’ve have multinationals like Google and Facebook sucking up the advertising market without any rules governing them in terms of paying their fair share of taxes. Hopefully, the government will now be able to take that on.”

    Although the lines between the printing and media sectors are sometimes blurred, Russell says printing industry workers make up the majority of Media Super members and the company has long been a supporter of the industry.

    “One of the things I’m most proud of is that over the past 30 years we’ve always been a rock-solid supporter of the printing industry. We’re major supporters of the PIAA and AGDA and, of course, the Media Super National Print Awards, as well as the PICAs, the Country Press Association awards, and the print apprentice of the year at the Diemen awards.”

    For more information, visit Media Super’s Yearbook site.

     

     

     

     

  • Mill worker makes remarkable recovery

    Norske Skog’s mill at Ettamogah near Albury, NSW.

    A 22-year-old worker who remained critically ill on life support for more than a week after two of his colleagues died in a gas leak at Norske Skog’s Albury newsprint mill has made “remarkable progress” and was discharged from hospital yesterday.

     

    The family of Tom Johnson, who maintained a bedside vigil at the Critical Care Unit at Albury Hospital, issued a statement earlier this week thanking hospital staff.

     

    Tom has made remarkable progress over the past week. It has been a gruelling 11 days and for Tom we have had the best possible outcome. Our family extends our deepest sympathies to Ben and Lyndon’s families and friends. Our thoughts and Tom’s thoughts are with you all.

    We would like to thank the ICU staff for their patience and understanding and for taking care of Tom and the family.

     

    36-year-old Lyndon Quinlivan and Ben Pascall, 28, died on May 24 after inhaling the toxic fumes following a gas leak at the Norske Skog site in Ettamogah near Albury on the Victoria-NSW border.

     

    A SafeWork NSW investigation into the incident is continuing. “Initial inquiries indicate the men were working in the basement area of the mill when they were overcome by Hydrogen Sulfide gas (H2S) and collapsed,” said a spokesperson.

     

    SafeWork NSW says it is preparing a report for the Coroner.

     

    184 people are employed at the newsprint production mill, which has been shut down since the incident.

     

     

  • Picton Press owes $9 million

    A KBA Rapida 10-Colour press at Picton Press in Perth.

    WA printer Picton Press was $9 million in debt when it called in external administrators last month after the ATO began court action to recover an outstanding tax bill of $1.3 million.

     Administrator Jeremy Nipps from insolvency firm Cor Cordis compiled a complete list of secured and unsecured creditors for the first creditors’ meeting held in Perth last Friday. The total debt figure includes more than $2 million in unsecured creditors and about $7 million in secured creditor debt. About $700,000 is owed to trade creditors.

    Picton Press remains open for business as Cor Cordis begins the process of looking for a potential buyer. The existing owners are also said to be “very keen” to hold onto the business.

    “We’re seeking Expressions of Interest (EOI) from parties who are interested in buying or restructuring the existing business,” says Nipps. “We’re advertising in the West Australian and national newspapers and we’ve had more than a dozen parties who’ve expressed interest so far, some of them are local, some national and some from abroad.

    An ad in today’s Australian Financial Review says: the administrators are seeking urgent expressions of interest for the recapitalisation and/or outright purchase of the company’s business and/or assets, either individually or collectively. Assets for sale include customer contracts, IP, plant, equipment and motor vehicles.

    Today’s notice in The Australian Financial Review.

    “We’re running through the process now hoping to extract an outcome that will provide a better return to creditors, whether it’s through a sale or a restructuring,” says Nipps.

    The EOI period ends on Friday 8 June and interested parties then have a couple of weeks to make ‘indicative offers,” which will be assessed by the administrators.

    Picton Press has grown from a three-man operation in 1988 to become one of Perth’s largest print companies, employing about 30 people, including directors Dennis Hague and Gary Kennedy. General manager Graham Jamieson is also a director on the board at the Printing Industries Association of Australia.

     

  • Four countries dumped A4 paper: ADC

    A paper machine at Australian Paper’s Maryvale mill.

    Australian Paper welcomed the Anti-Dumping Commission’s decision to release a Preliminary Affirmative Determination (PAD) confirming that paper producers from Finland, Korea, Russia and Slovakia have been dumping A4 copy paper onto the local market.

    “Australian jobs and the future of the local industry remain under threat from low market pricing for copy paper,” says Australian Paper COO Peter Williams. “The ADC’s decision to impose preliminary dumping duties on paper from Finland, Korea, Russia and Slovakia is a welcome first step in this investigation.”

    ‘It is necessary to require and take securities’: Commissioner Dale Seymour, ADC.

    In his preliminary determination, Anti-Dumping Commissioner Dale Seymour said: “I am satisfied there appears to be sufficient grounds for the publication of a dumping duty notice in respect of the goods exported to Australia from Finland, Korea, Russia and Slovakia, and that it is necessary to require and take securities in relation to exports from Finland, Korea, Russia and Slovakia to prevent material injury to the Australian industry occurring while the investigation continues.”

    Russia last month said it would refuse to cooperate with the investigation and Finland also dismissed the allegations as “questionable.”

    Seymour says the Federal Government will “take securities in respect of interim dumping duties that may become payable on the goods imported from those four countries and entered for home consumption in Australia on or after Monday, 21 May 2018.”

    The commission found there were not sufficient grounds “at this stage” to make a PAD in relation to the goods exported from Austria – the 5thcountry accused of dumping.

    The investigation followed an application for a dumping notice by Australian Paper, Australia’s only office paper manufacturer, which said the local A4 copy paper market had suffered “material injury” caused by cheap A4 copy paper exported to Australia.

    “Ongoing capital investment in local manufacturing is dependent upon fair market pricing,” says Williams. “Copy paper prices in Australia remain at historical lows and it is important that fairness is restored for the successful future of paper manufacturing in the Latrobe Valley.”

    Australian Paper, owned by Japan’s Nippon Paper Industries, is the largest private employer in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley. The company says it supports over 5,700 jobs nationally and contributes more than $900 million to Australia’s annual GDP.

  • Kirwan Print pushes into packaging

    Roger Kirwan (r) with new GM Carl Butchard , in front of the latest Foxcil purchase – a Brotech label finishing line

    Kirwan Print Group is planning a major expansion that will include doubling its factory size and investing in new technology to transform the group’s Roller Poster unit into full service flexible packaging company called Creatabull Flexibles.

    “We’re buying one large packaging press that will complement our existing Simon VK flexo press by adding increased speed and capacity,” said Kirwan founder and managing director, Roger Kirwan. “We’ve yet to make a final decision on the exact type of press but we’re pretty far down the track. We’re also looking at buying new converting and finishing equipment.” Earlier this year, Kirwan travelled to Israel to join hundreds of HP Indigo customers at a three-day event to showcase the company’s range of production printing and packaging technologies.

    Work will begin later this year to expand the company’s factory at Short Street, Brookvale in northern Sydney.

    “There’s a vacant site next to our existing factory and we’ll start building a new facility later this year that will house our new packaging operation,” said Kirwan. “The buildings will eventually be joined together so that everything will be under one roof. We’ll go from a total of about 6,000 sq.m to 12,000 sq.m.”

    The Kirwan MD has moved into a new “Special projects” role to oversee the expansion strategy, handing over the day-to-day running of Kirwan Group companies Foxcil (For Trade labels & stickers), Roller Poster and Suddensigns.com to the new general manager for the group, Carl Butchard.

    “To grow the business, I needed to move from working in the business to working on the business,” said Kirwan. “I’ve spent the last six months accessing the way forward for the group and will need another six months of implementation of our strategy.

    “Foxcil continues strongly, and the trade-only model for Foxcil is important to us. Most of our customers understand the importance of Foxcil being the only true full-service trade-only label supplier, and our aggressive investment in latest technologies over the last few years for Foxcil has paid off as we have successfully disrupted the market in this space. We see no immediate changes for Foxcil.”

    The name of the company’s Roller Poster business – which currently supplies printed rolls of plastics – will immediately be changed to Creatabull Flexibles and become a flexible packaging company.

    “Flexible packaging is the market we have chosen to disrupt next and widening the Roller Poster offer to best utilise our existing equipment and coupling it with the latest available technology is our next move,” said Kirwan. “Essentially, Roller Poster we will be turning into a full-service flexible packaging company – with a modern digital twist, and our name needs to now reflect this.

    “Our new Brand – Creatabull Flexibles – will offer service and turnaround times not ever seen in the Flexible packaging industry in Australia.”

    Kirwan Print Group is a family-owned company that owns a group of specialist print companies focused on supplying the print industry – print companies, print procurement specialists, print agencies and print designers.

  • Russia rebuffs anti-dumping commission

    The Russian Federation is refusing to cooperate with a federal government Anti-Dumping Commission (ADC) investigation into the alleged dumping of cheap A4 copy paper on the Australian market. Finland has also dismissed the allegations as “questionable.”

    The ADC is investigating claims by Australian Paper – Australia’s only office paper manufacturer – that five countries including Russia, South Korea, Austria, Finland and the Slovak Republic are exporting copy paper to Australia that is being sold at prices cheaper than its popular Reflex brand.

    I will rely on all other information available’: ADC Commissioner Dale Seymour

    In a preliminary report, the ADC said “there appear to be reasonable grounds to support the claims that the Australian industry has experienced loss of revenue and reduced profitability.”

    The claims have been dismissed by the Trade Representation of the Russian Federation in Canberra, which has refused to cooperate with the investigation and has rejected an ADC request to complete an “exporter questionnaire.”

    In a submission to the ADC, Alexander Kuznetsov, acting trade representative of the Russian Federation in Australia, said: “We would like to remind that according to Article 5.8 of the WTO Anti-Dumping Agreement, the volume of dumped imports shall normally be regarded as negligible if the volume of dumped imports from a particular country is found to account for less than 3 per cent of imports of the like product…the import volumes of the goods from the Russian Federation in 2017 were about 0.94 percent of all imports of the goods into Australia in 2017.

    “We urge the Commission to promptly terminate the investigation in respect of the Russian goods if the import volume from the Russian Federation is found to account for less than 3 percent of all imports into Australia during the investigation period.”

    ADC Commissioner Dale Seymour has warned Russia it will be considered “an uncooperative exporter” if it continues to refuse to provide details of its paper exports into Australia.

    “I have determined that if Russia has not provided a response within the legislated period; and has not requested a longer period to provide a response…Russia will be considered an uncooperative exporter for the purposes of this investigation and I will rely on all other information available in making recommendations and findings.”

    Finland said it was concerned about “possible intentional claims to the authorities initiated by the companies acting on this market to create excessive administrative barriers for new potential competitors.

    ‘Insignificant supply volumes’: Teija Kalinainen, International Paper, Finland.

    “Please note that collecting the information in scope requested by the Anti-Dumping Commission entails significant volume of resources to be spent,” said Teija Kalinainen, finance controller at International Paper Nordic Sales in Finland. “These [sic] spending may appear to be highly disproportional to [redacted] turnover of the product the Company sold in Australia in year 2017…the real dumping effect the Company’s product pricing could make in Australia with such insignificant supply volumes, is questionable.”

    Last week, Melbourne-based Central National Australia also denied dumping cheap A4 paper onto the local market by importing Fuji Xerox Professional Paper from the Hankuk Paper company in South Korea.

    The ADC is investigating exports to Australia in 2017 to look for evidence of dumping and also intends to examine the Australian market from January 2014 for “injury analysis purposes” to see whether the dumped goods provide a basis for a dumping duty to apply retrospectively.

    Australian Paper – owned by global giant Nippon Paper Group – is one of the largest employers in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley.

  • Melbourne paper company denies A4 dumping

    (Photo: Central National)

    Melbourne-based Central National Australia has denied it’s dumping cheap A4 paper onto the local market by importing Fuji Xerox Professional Paper from the Hankuk Paper company in South Korea.

    Australian Paper, Australia’s only office paper manufacturer, claims the imported Fuji Xerox paper is being sold at prices cheaper than its flagship Reflex brand.

    The Federal Government’s Anti-Dumping Commission (ADC) is investigating allegations that five countries are exporting cheap copy paper to Australia.

    In an application for a dumping notice, Japanese-owned Australian Paper told the ADC the local A4 copy paper market had suffered “material injury” caused by cheap A4 copy paper exported from South Korea, Austria, Finland, Russia and the Slovak Republic.

    In a preliminary report, the ADC said: There appear to be reasonable grounds to support the claims that the Australian industry has experienced material injury in the form of price depression, loss of revenue and reduced profitability.

    Dumping claims ‘simply not correct’: Scott Hordern, MD Central National Australia.

    But in a submission to the ADC, Central National Australia (CNA) – a Wantirna South, Melbourne division of New York-based global pulp and paper company Central National – slammed Australian Paper’s claims and denied it was guilty of paper dumping.

    “Central National is a sales company that works with numerous exporters selling paper and products (including copy paper) into Australia and New Zealand,” said MD Scott Hordern in a written submission that was heavily redacted before being published on the ADC site. “During the period of investigation, we worked with Hankuk Paper in promoting and selling their grades to wholesalers/distributors in the Australian market. At no time was it Hankuk Paper or Central National’s intention to cause injury to Australian Paper through price suppression.”

    Part of the CNA submission.

    Hordern called for an investigation of all of pricing in the market and criticized “the limited details put forward by Australian Paper” in their application for an investigation.

    “Whilst Australian Paper suggests a market volume decline of 3% pa, we wish to highlight the significant increase in Australian Paper’s market share during the period – such a significant increase in market share does not correlate with a company experiencing injury from imports.”

    Hordern said allegations that imports from South Korea undercut Australian Paper’s prices and contributed to a deterioration in prices “is simply not correct. The pricing of imports from Hankuk Paper during the period were always above the Australian Paper price levels of their lower tiered products.

    “Australian Paper imply that Fuji Xerox Professional Paper from Hankuk is being sold at below Reflex pricing of $4.99/rm in their argument that Hankuk Paper’s product is hence causing injury. Whilst Australian Paper claims that Officework’s strategy means weekly discounts are rare, it is extremely likely that pricing of both these grades may have been discounted at the time of Australian Paper reporting.”

    The ADC is investigating exports to Australia last year to look for evidence of dumping. It also intends to examine the Australian market from January 2014 for “injury analysis purposes” to see whether the dumped goods provide a basis for a dumping duty to apply retrospectively.

    Australian Paper – owned by global giant Nippon Paper Group – is one of the largest employers in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley.

    Central National Australia is the local office of Central National Division – a group with over US$3.5 billion of sales in the pulp and paper industry globally. The Australian office conducts sales between paper mills all over the world – Europe, Americas and Asia – and customers in Australia and New Zealand. The range of paper products sold covers publication (newsprint, magazine papers), packaging (all packaging uses) and printing and writing papers (coated paper, copy paper).

  • EC rejects paper dumping allegations

    The European Commission (EC) has rejected claims by Australian Paper that Austria, Finland and Slovakia are dumping copy paper onto the Australian market.

    In a written submission to the Federal Government’s Anti-Dumping Commission (ADC), the Directorate-General for Trade of the EC said the allegations “do not appear to be convincing at this stage of the investigation.”

    Australian Paper – Australia’s only office paper manufacturer – told the ADC last month that the local A4 copy paper market had suffered “material injury” caused by cheap A4 copy paper exported from Austria, Finland, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation and the Slovak Republic.

    In its preliminary report, the ADC said: There appear to be reasonable grounds to support the claims that the Australian industry has experienced material injury in the form of: price depression; price suppression; loss of revenue; loss of profits; reduced profitability; and reduced return on investment.

    Australian Paper – owned by Japan’s Nippon Paper Group – welcomed the ADC’s decision to begin a formal investigation. “Australian jobs and the future of the local industry continue to be under threat from low market prices,” said Peter Williams, COO Australian Paper.

    But in a submission this week from its headquarters in Brussels, the EC strongly dismissed the dumping claims.

    “On the basis of the injury factors provided so far (sales, profits, market share, prices, magnitude of the dumping margin and return on investment) the domestic industry does not seem to be suffering injury caused by allegedly dumped imports from the subject countries,” said the EC’s Directorate-General for Trade.

    The Australian industry was showing “no signs of volume injury” during the investigation period (2014-2017) “but to the contrary,” according to the EC.

    “The A4 copy paper market in Australia has been declining in 2015 and 2016 and recovered slightly in 2017. Against that trend, the domestic industry’s sales volumes and sales revenues have increased significantly, especially in the last two years of the investigation period (+ 38%). Market shares of the domestic industry follow a similar trend, reaching a share of approximately 72% in 2017.

    “Regarding profits, it appears that the industry increased its performance by 10% in 2017 – following two years of decline, which would not show any injury caused by the investigated imports.”

    The EC said injury and causality analysis “do not appear to be convincing at this stage of the investigation” and called for an in-depth analysis of “the impact of other factors” on the current situation.

    “The European Commission trusts that the Australian authorities will comply with their WTO obligations throughout the proceeding,” said the EC.

    The ADC is investigating exports to Australia between 1 January 2017 to 31 December 2017 to look for evidence of dumping and intends to examine the local market from 1 January 2014 for ‘injury analysis purposes’ to see whether the dumped goods provide a basis for a dumping notice to apply retrospectively.

  • ADC investigates new paper dumping case

    A paper machine at Australian Paper’s Maryvale mill.

    The Federal Government’s Anti-Dumping Commission (ADC) is investigating allegations that five countries including Russia and South Korea are dumping copy paper onto the Australian market.

    In an application for a dumping notice, Australia’s only office paper manufacturer Australian Paper told the ADC that the local A4 copy paper market has suffered “material injury” caused by cheap A4 copy paper exported to Australia from Austria, Finland, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation and the Slovak Republic.

    In a preliminary report, the ADC said: There appear to be reasonable grounds to support the claims that the Australian industry has experienced material injury in the form of: price depression; price suppression; loss of revenue; loss of profits; reduced profitability; and reduced return on investment.

    The commission says it will now investigate exports to Australia between 1 January 2017 to 31 December 2017 to look for evidence of dumping. It also intends to examine the Australian market from 1 January 2014 for “injury analysis purposes” to see whether the dumped goods provide a basis for a dumping duty notice to apply retrospectively.

    ‘We welcome the ADC’s decision to investigate this important issue’: Peter Williams, Australian Paper.

    Australian Paper welcomed the ADC’s decision to begin an investigation. “Australian jobs and the future of the local industry continue to be under threat from low market prices,” says Peter Williams, COO Australian Paper.

    “The Australian office paper market remains intensely competitive with imports continuing to be received from around the world. Australian Paper remains committed to competing equitably against imported paper and will continue to focus on the efficient manufacture of innovative, high quality, Australian made products,” Williams says. “However, market pricing remains at commercially unsustainable levels due to the impact of low priced imports.

    “The ADC’s investigation into office paper from Austria, Finland, Korea, Russia and Slovakia will determine whether manufacturers from these countries are operating fairly in this market. We look forward to the ADC’s determination as to whether office paper from these countries is being sold into this market at dumped prices.”

    In April 2017, the ADC imposed dumping duties on A4 copy paper exported to Australia from Brazil, China, Indonesia and Thailand after a similar complaint from Australian Paper. The company argued that cheap imports sold below the cost of production were threatening jobs at its Maryvale mill in the Latrobe Valley, where market-leading Reflex brand A4 copy paper is produced. Indonesia later threatened to sue the Australian government over the dumping duties.

    Australian Paper says it gained market share last year as a result of the measures imposed against imports from Brazil, China, Indonesia and Thailand (see chart below).

    Not surprised: Tim Woods, MD IndustryEdge.

    Industry analyst Tim Woods, managing director of IndustryEdge, says he’s not surprised to see new dumping allegations before the commission.

    “After last year’s clear decision by the ADC, any hint of dumping from other countries was always going straight back to the ADC. Very low priced copy paper imports have made it difficult for Australian Paper to provide price leadership, despite the rising price of pulp across the world.

    “Since the start of 2018, all imports of A4 copy paper have been made confidential in the trade data so there is no longer any ‘look through’ to any copy paper import volumes or prices, for any country,” says Woods. “Removing trade transparency isn’t evidence of dumping, but in our experience, the masking of basic data is often mixed up with dumping cases.”

    Australian Paper – owned by Japan’s Nippon Paper Group – is one of the largest employers in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley and contributes over $900 million to Australia’s GDP annually. The company recently was hit by an eight-week strike at its envelope-making factory at Preston in Melbourne.

    Read the full ADC report number 463/Application for a dumping duty notice here.