Author Archive

  • 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.





  • Banknote printers claim they have been bludgeoned back to work

    Note Printing Australia at Craigieburn, Victoria.

    Workers at the Reserve Bank’s banknote printing business Note Printing Australia (NPA) have ended their industrial action and voted to accept a 2.5% pay increase after the company threatened an indefinite lockout, according to the AMWU.

    “We came to a resolution at a mass meeting last night to accept the deal, so all the bans are now off and the workers have returned to normal duties,” says AMWU print organiser Mick Bull. “It was not a unanimous vote but it was comprehensive, with about 80% of workers in favour.

    “It’s a disappointing result but we’ve been bludgeoned into accepting it after the company threatened an indefinite lockout of workers. The workers are not happy, they’re pissed off, but the company wouldn’t budge and threatened to lock out everyone indefinitely.”

    In a statement, the AMWU’s head office described the agreement as a win for workers.

    Union members at Note Printing Australia (NPA) are celebrating after voting up an enterprise agreement that delivers significant wins in their wages and conditions. After almost 3 months of protected action, NPA improved their offer to the workers to include: 5 days of standalone domestic and family violence leave; casual conversion changes including instantaneous conversion to permanent work for some long-term casual workers; improved consultation on contractors; and a 2.5% wage rise per year for the 3 year agreement.

    AMWU Assistant State Secretary for Print Tony Piccolo hailed the workers for taking a stand for a better deal and leading the way for other workers around the country to fight for improved pay rises, secure jobs, and standalone paid family and domestic violence leave.

    “It was pretty galling for the workers to hear the RBA Governor call for 3.5% pay rises in one breath and then refuse that same pay rise to their own subsidiary’s workers in the next,” he said. “Just yesterday we heard again that Australian wages are basically going backwards – not keeping up with CPI and cost of living. But in the end it wasn’t just about the pay rise. The workers were willing to accept 2.5% as long as they received the upfront domestic and family violence leave clause in their agreement and secure jobs for casual workers.

    “It really shouldn’t come to this, for workers to have to strike and sacrifice a few days pay to win a fair wage rise in their agreement, when everyone agrees that Australians need a pay rise. It’s another clear-cut example of why we need to change the rules,” said Piccolo.

    Note Printing Australia locked out half its work force last Friday in retaliation for ongoing industrial action by the AMWU, provoking the remaining workers to go on a one-day strike in support. The workers returned to the Craigieburn plant on Monday but had maintained work bans on overtime and software implementation in support of a pay rise of 3.5% – compared to the NPA’s offer of 2.5%.

    “The deal we’ve agreed on is for a 2.5% wage increase that will be underpinned by wage indexation, so if that’s higher then we go to the higher rate,” said Bull. “At the moment, it stands at 2.1% and if it goes over 2.5% in years two and three then we will get the higher amount. We’ve also agreed on five days upfront domestic violence leave per annum and we’ve received a commitment to discuss the issue of long-term casuals, some of whom have been in the job seven or eight years.”

    The AMWU negotiated a separate agreement with RBA white collar workers, mostly based in Sydney. They will receive a 2% pay rise which could increase up to 5% with bonuses.

    Note Printing Australia is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of Australia.

  • $10m power bill hike for Pact

    Packaging manufacturer Pact Group, chaired by billionaire Raphael Geminder, suffered a sharp drop in its share price after posting an 18% fall in profit despite a 13% rise in revenue for the year ending June 2018.

    ‘Challenged by the macro environment’: PACT CEO Malcolm Bundey.

    Group sales revenue of $1,674 million increased 13% or $199 million compared to the pcp. Statutory profit was 18% lower at $74 million, with net profit (before significant items) down 5% to $95 million. Pact Group shares fell by more than 20% at the close of trading yesterday.

    “The Group delivered solid organic growth in the contract manufacturing, sustainability and infrastructure sectors and improved rigid packaging volumes into the health and wellness sector,” Pact told the ASX. “This was partly offset by lower materials handling volumes, due to raw material shortages following a major supplier plant outage across May and June, and lower rigid packaging volumes, impacted by a major customer plant closure in the dairy sector, and drought conditions in the agricultural sector.”

    Pact MD and CEO Malcolm Bundey, said: “Our strategic growth initiatives have performed well, with revenue and earnings in line with expectations. Integration of our acquisition in Asia is on schedule and our Australian crate pooling business is fully commissioned and operating in line with expectations. We have been challenged by the macro environment, and this is reflected in our earnings.

    Raw material input costs, especially the rising price of resin, have been challenging, Bundey said. “Whilst we have disciplined raw material cost recovery mechanisms across our business, earnings have been adversely impacted by time lags.

    “Energy prices in Australia also increased sharply in the second half and, as we anticipated, recovering these additional costs has been difficult. Consequently, our earnings reflect significant unrecovered energy costs.”

    Pact said its Australian energy costs jumped 40% in the second half of the financial year, representing an increase of $10 million.

    “Against these headwinds, we have been strongly focused on driving efficiency,” Bundey said. “We have delivered improvements in the business through our operational excellence programs and we have commenced transformation of our rigid packaging network.

    “Our diversified portfolio has mitigated the impact of volume softness in some sectors. Solid organic growth in the contract manufacturing, sustainability and infrastructure sectors offset the impact of lower materials handling and rigid packaging volumes in the period. We expect to achieve higher revenue and earnings in FY2019, subject to global economic conditions.”

    Pact also announced the $122 million acquisition of TIC Retail Accessories (TIC), a closed loop plastic garment hanger and accessories re-use business. The deal is expected to be completed in October 2018.

    TIC, established in 1989, has “transformed the garment hanger industry,” eliminating significant waste from single-use plastic hangers and accessories by pioneering a closed loop re-use program.

    TIC’s re-use program supplies plastic garment hangers and accessories to garment manufacturers. The hangers and accessories are collected after sales from retail stores, sorted and then distributed back to the garment manufacturers for re-use. The program significantly reduces waste in the supply chain, with re-use rates of up to 80%.

    “The acquisition of TIC is a unique opportunity to further leverage our demonstrated capability in closed loop asset pooling and plastics manufacturing,” said Bundey. “TIC adds scale to our portfolio and expands our Asian platform. TIC’s sustainability agenda is strongly aligned with the Group’s commitment to providing innovative ways to assist our customers to meet their sustainability objectives.”

    Pact Group Holdings Ltd (PGH) is a manufacturer of packaging and other products with 64 manufacturing plants across Australia, New Zealand, Asia and USA. PGH converts primarily rigid plastic, resin and steel into packaging and related products that service customers in the food, dairy, beverage, chemical, agricultural, industrial and other sectors.



  • Gold Coast trade printer Goode liquidates

    Goode Continuous Printing at Molendinar, QLD.

    Print broker McDonald Group has been quick to secure the client list of established Gold Coast trade printer Goode Continuous Printing, which went into liquidation this week after more than 30 years in business.

    Gavin Joyce, MD Goode Continuous Printing.

    Goode managing director Gavin Joyce, an industry veteran and former Currie Group account manager, started out as an apprentice printer and has worked in the industry since then. Joyce has been unavailable for comment and the phone at Goode rings out.

    The business, located in Molendinar on the Gold Coast in Queensland, began in 1987 as a small continuous printer for local companies and had expanded production to include sheeted and book work for customers across Australia and overseas.

    Goode specialised in printing business forms, carbonless (NCR) office stationery such as invoices and purchase order books. Goode’s digital division, G Digital Print, offered flyers, posters, brochures, stationery, business cards, magnets, postcards, and more.

    According to an ASIC notice, members of the company held a meeting on Monday and resolved to wind up the business and appoint liquidator Jarvis Archer of Noosa Heads insolvency firm Revive Financial.

    Goode’s website now features a message from Toowoomba-based print broker McDonald Group, which also has branches in Brisbane and Sydney:

    We are pleased to advise that as at Friday 20th July 2018, McDonald Group has acquired the customer lists of Goode Continuous Printing.

    Clients of Goode Continuous Printing will continue to receive the excellent service, quality and advice that you have come to know and trust. McDonald Group will also offer you unchanged prices, quality and service, and all work in progress will be completed to your agreed delivery schedule.

    Account executive contacts and any queries can be directed to Simone Walmsley of McDonald Group. Phone 07 3013 6104, mobile 0428 632 280. Email

    The McDonald Group describes itself as a privately-owned company established in 1893. “As the industry’s only wholly integrated asset manager, we are uniquely positioned to manage print and digital solutions across client organisations,” says the McDonald website.

    “The traditional business model of the print organisation is changing. Successful integrated asset managers, like McDonald, are supplementing our core ink-on-paper operations with a broader range of services – driven by innovation, technology and superior customer service. We are forging a new delivery model with a range of print and digital services designed specifically for our clients.

    McDonald also delivers multichannel workflow solutions to clients throughout Australia and Asia. “Our procurement, marketing and production clients operate across professional services, government, mining and energy, hospitals and aged care sectors.”

    The liquidator is expected to announce details of the first creditors’ meeting shortly.

  • Packagers defend plastic packaging

    Bans on plastic packaging would threaten food safety, sterile packaging and health regulations, according to industry group Packaging New Zealand (PNZ), whose members include global giants Visy, Orora, Unilever and Amcor Flexibles.

    PNZ said it understands the reasons for the recent bans on single-use plastic bags but would be “alarmed” if this was extended to plastic packaging.

    ‘A step too far’: Sharon Humphries, executive director, Packaging NZ.

    “Plastic packaging is used because it is effective, efficient and economic,” said Sharon Humphreys, executive director of PNZ. “Any suggestion to extend plastic bans into the packaging space starts to impact areas such as food safety, sterile packaging, logistical efficiencies affecting carbon emissions, health and safety regulations, to name a few. This would be a step too far.

    “Advocates of banning plastic will always find examples of potential misuse, but those charged with policy development need to offer a balanced perspective, which is mindful of society’s requirements, not simply appeasement of the vocal minority.

    “Let us be clear, we too are horrified by the devastating effect on the natural environment of plastic pollution. Fewer bags in circulation will inevitably mean a reduction of bags in the natural, environment. This would be a good outcome, but it must be acknowledged that banning bags demonises the product – single-use plastic bags – but excuses the conduct of those who litter.”

    ‘The tip of the iceberg’: Rachel Brown, CEO Sustainable Business Network.

    According to New Zealand’s Sustainable Business Network, the ban of plastic bags in “just the tip of the iceberg.”

    “The environmental impact of plastic packaging, particularly single-use plastic bags, is now well-known,” said CEO Rachel Brown. “But what many people don’t realise is that there’s a massive economic cost involved too because of resource wastage. The cost of packaging waste sits at around $80 billion globally and is rising as the costs of clean up are added. So, the phasing out of single-use plastic bags is not only good for the environment, it’s good for the economy.

    “Plastic bags are just the tip of the iceberg. That’s why we’re working with ten leading businesses to better understand New Zealand’s entire plastic packaging system. We need to radically change how we design, use and re-use plastics.”

    Brooke Donnelly, CEO of the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) – which represents 950 member companies – said the future of plastic in the waste debate needs to be considered holistically rather than simply advocating for blanket bans.

    “The conversation needs to be much broader,” Donnelly said. “It is not about whether it’s good or bad, but that it hasn’t been managed effectively at end of life. This is where we need to concentrate our efforts going forward.

    “There are a number of international initiatives to improve the recyclability of soft plastics, including new design guidelines that are expected to be released later in the year.

    “In addition, new technologies are driving change such as a new process for complex multilayer plastics that include chemical recycling (processing back into the basic building blocks for plastics) and these developments will continue to eliminate plastic from landfill and reduce the impact on the environment.”

    In April, Australia’s federal, state and territory environment ministers committed to an APCO initiative to eliminate all packaging going to landfill by 2025.

  • Amcor packs its bags for Jersey tax haven

    Australian packaging giant Amcor is buying US flexible packaging leader Bemis for $US6.8 billion ($A9.2 billion) before listing on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). A combined holding company, New Amcor, will be incorporated in Jersey.

    “Combining these two complementary companies will create the global leader in consumer packaging, with the footprint, scale and capabilities to drive significant value for shareholders,” Amcor told the ASX in a statement.

    ‘The financial benefits are highly compelling’: Amcor CEO Ron Delia.

    Amcor and Bemis will be combined into a newly created holding company called New Amcor and be incorporated in Jersey – a self-governing dependency of the UK located in the Channel Islands that was identified by the EU last year as one of 17 global tax havens.

    “It is intended that New Amcor will be tax resident in the UK after closing,” the company said. “New Amcor will have a primary listing on the NYSE and a listing on the ASX.”

    Amcor will still trade on the ASX but only through Chess Depositary Interests – a type of security used by the ASX to allow international companies to trade on the local market. Australian shareholders will have the option of holding shares in the NYSE listing or via a secondary listing in the ASX through Chess Depositary Interests.

    The deal, subject to approval by regulators and both sets of the shareholders, would see Amcor issue 5.1 of its shares for each Bemis share. Bemis shareholders will end up with 29 per cent of the combined company and Amcor shareholders will have 71 per cent.

    “We will establish a listing on the NYSE with a market capitalization of about $US17 billion,” said Amcor CEO Ron Delia. “The strategic rationale for this combination and the financial benefits are highly compelling for both Amcor and Bemis shareholders. We are convinced this is the right deal at the right time for both companies, and with the right structure for both sets of shareholders to participate in a unique value creation opportunity. Amcor identified flexible packaging in the Americas as a key growth priority and this transaction delivers a step change in that region.

    “There are an increasing number of opportunities arising for a leading packaging company to capitalize on shifting consumer needs, an evolving customer landscape and the need to provide responsible packaging solutions that protect the environment. With this transaction, Amcor will have a stronger value proposition with the scale, breadth and resources to unlock value from these opportunities, for the benefit of our shareholders, customers and employees.”

    Amcor, which transferred its global headquarters from Melbourne to Zurich in 2015, is a global leader in packaging solutions, supplying a range of rigid and flexible packaging products into the food, beverage, healthcare, personal care and other fast moving consumer end markets. Amcor operates around 195 sites in over 40 countries, with approximately 35,000 employees. For the year ended 30 June 2017, Amcor generated revenues of US$9.1 billion and EBITDA of US$1.4 billion.

    Bemis Company is a supplier of flexible and rigid plastic packaging used by leading food, consumer products, healthcare, and other companies worldwide. It has 56 packaging plants in the US and 11 other countries. Founded in 1858, Bemis reported 2017 net sales of US$4.0 billion. Bemis has a strong technical base in polymer chemistry, film extrusion, coating and laminating, printing, and converting. Headquartered in Neenah, Wisconsin, Bemis employs approximately 16,000 people worldwide.

    The combined businesses will have a total revenue of $US13 billion.

    The new company’s global flexible packaging footprint.

    “The combination of Bemis and Amcor is transformational, bringing together two highly complementary organizations to create a global leader in consumer packaging,” said Bemis president and CEO, William F. Austen. “We believe this combination, which is an exciting growth story for both companies, will benefit all stakeholders.”

    Amcor chairman Graeme Liebelt will remain as chairman of the ‘New Amcor,’ with the enlarged board to include eight current Amcor directors and three directors from Bemis.

  • ‘30 years of my life gone’: Panther MD

    Greg Beech at Panther Print.

    Greg Beech, owner of liquidated Brisbane offset house Panther Print Group, says low margins in a shrinking market finally forced him to close the doors after 30 years in business.

    “It’s been a struggle since the GFC and I don’t think I was the only one struggling,” says Beech, who contacted Print21 to tell his side of the story. “I didn’t want to be seen as one of those guys that shuts down and runs away.

    “I feel bad that I haven’t paid the paper guys, Direct, Doggett’s and Vital. I was hoping to pay them but there was just no money left at the end. Within the trade, they’re the ones that got hurt. My wife and myself have put a lot of money into this company over the years and we decided we just couldn’t do it anymore. I had limited funds and had to make a decision.

    “I’ve paid off all the smaller guys, the mum and dad businesses, and my biggest concern was my staff,” Beech says. “I’d already sold most of the machinery and recently sold the client base and used those funds to pay off staff super. There should be no staff super outstanding at the end of this process.”

    Beech says the loss of a major packaging contract was the final straw.

    “I tried to change the Panther business a couple of years ago and bought a bigger press and signed a large one-year contract to print packaging, which I hoped would continue and transition into larger sheet work. But that never happened and then we lost the packaging job.

    “We were doing a mixture of small jobbing work and small run colour jobs but it’s a very tough market with low pricing and I wasn’t willing to drop to those cheaper prices because it was just untenable. With low margins in a shrinking market, you get a few people who don’t pay or don’t pay on time and there’s nothing left in the tank. I gave it a shot but I couldn’t do it.

    “In the end, I was left with just a guillotine and a few bits and pieces. Certainly, 30 years of my life is gone and there’s not much left at the end of it. To tell you the truth, I’m renting a house right now.”

    Panther Print, Stone St, Stafford.

    Panther Print – based at Stafford, a northern Brisbane suburb, was once an established offset commercial printer, running Heidelberg one, two and five colour presses.

    Beech last week decided to wind up the business and appoint liquidator Bill Cotter of Robson Cotter Insolvency Group. Major creditors include paper companies Direct Paper, Ball & Doggett’s and Vital Paper.

    Ten staff members, some with more than 20 years of service, lost their jobs. Four of them have been employed by another Brisbane printer, one has secured part-time work and another has found work outside the industry.

    Beech says he’s not sure where he’s headed next.

    “At this point in time, I could care less if I never smelled ink or saw a printing press again in my life, but I’m 55 and I need to re-evaluate. I have a lot of friends in the industry up here and something might come along in a month’s time. Printing is all I’ve done in my life so I’m not sure what else I could do.”

    A creditors’ meeting is expected to be announced shortly.



  • Kym Burns buys SA’s Newstyle Print

    Newstyle Print in Mile End, Adelaide.

    Former general manager Kym Burns has bought leading Adelaide digital and offset business Newstyle Print from former owner Ian Richards, who has now retired.

     Richards, part of a prominent South Australian print dynasty, founded Newstyle Print in 1972, starting out with a small press under the verandah at his parents’ home. He developed the business into one of the most technologically-advanced digital and offset printing setups in South Australia, offering print services for magazines, books, catalogues, brochures, posters, stationery and more.

    (l-r) PIAA CEO Andrew Macaulay, Kym Burns at Newstyle (2016).

    Burns, now MD and owner, has been with Newstyle Print for 38 years and general manager for the past 18 years.

    “With the retirement of founding director Ian Richards, Kym is now managing director, having acquired ownership of Newstyle Print,” says the company website. “Kym helped Newstyle grow from a 10-man shed operation to the powerful 70-strong organisation it is today. With his vast prepress background and a hands-on management style, Kym continues to ensure the company stays at the top of the marketplace.”

    News of the buyout had been known for weeks but Burns had been reluctant to confirm the deal.

    Newstyle’s purpose-built 4,000m2 building, located just outside Adelaide CBD in Mile End, houses its prepress, digital printing, offset printing, finishing and warehouse storage operations.

    The company’s machinery line-up includes a flagship Komori Lithrone S40P, two Heidelberg 5 colour A1 presses and a smaller 5 colour Komori A2 press – with a total capacity to print up to 6,500,000 A4 pages per day.

    Book binding at Newstyle.

    The digital printing suite includes a Xerox Colour 1000 with inline plokmatic finishing options and a Xerox Versant 2100. Newstyle’s Prepress department runs Fujifilm’s XMF workflow system.

    Newstyle Print’s Ian Richards (right) with his son, Luke.

    In 2012, Newstyle bought award-winning publishing house Free Run Press, now known as Newstyle Media, and owned by Richard’s son, Luke.

  • ‘Critical’ shortage in ink raw materials

    Ink prices look certain to rise once again, with leading global supplier Sun Chemical warning that some raw materials are now at such critically low levels that it’s being forced to use “alternative materials” as substitutes.

    “We’d need do all the trials and testing to make sure any substitutes were compliant with NICNAS”:  Ian Johns, MD DIC ANZ.

    In the latest round of price hikes just last month, Sun increased its UV and electron beam inks by 4%-6%, Flint Group announced a 6% price increase in its offset inks and coatings, BASF raised global prices for bismuth pigments by 15%, and German manufacturer Hubergroup increased its ink prices by 6%-8%.

    In an update to customers this week, Sun Chemical CMO Felipe Mellado says the ongoing shortage of raw materials could result in supply disruption for at least the next two to three months.

    “Unfortunately, the manufacturing and supply of this feedstock has been further delayed due to inspections still ongoing regarding compliance with Chinese environmental regulations,” says Mellado. “Furthermore, this supply disruption is impacting several photoinitiators beyond our initial communication.

    “This means that supplies of these photoinitiators are now at critically low levels globally, which is impacting our ability to manufacture and supply inks to our customers on a timely basis. We do not anticipate the situation will be resolved soon. In fact, we expect the supply shortage will be a reality for at least the next two to three months. This is an industry-wide shortage affecting all UV ink manufacturers.

    Mellado says Sun Chemical has been forced to substitute “alternative materials” to cope with the supply shortages.

    “As the world’s leading ink supplier, we continue to secure all volume available in the market as well as continue to work on qualifying suitable alternative materials,” he says. “To manage materials effectively, it will continue to be necessary to offer inks formulated with alternative materials at short notice. You will be advised when this is the case. We will need your collaboration to validate these inks rapidly to maintain service levels to the best of our ability. We will make our best attempts to supply inks within the same specification and performance characteristics. Furthermore, we may also need to limit orders in excess of historical consumption. This situation is increasing the cost of remaining photoinitiator materials significantly and alternative materials are also affected.”

    Sun Chemical is a member of the DIC group, a leading producer of printing inks, coatings and supplies, pigments, polymers, liquid compounds, solid compounds, and application materials.

    Ian Johns, managing director of DIC Australia/DIC New Zealand, says any substitute raw materials coming into Australia would need to comply with the Federal Government’s strict National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS). “We’d need do all the trials and testing to make sure any substitutes were compliant with NICNAS and that they performed equally as well, with no detriment to product performance.”

    DIC ANZ raised its prices earlier this year and more rises are on the way. “There are quite a few areas of critical shortages and that’s been going on for some time now,” says Johns. “A lot of it is being driven by China where they’ve closed down many raw materials manufacturers and put a lot of pressure on the supply of pigments. Cost is something we have to keep an eye on. We predict that over the next six months, we are going to have to consider another rise in prices.”

  • Shareholders to vote on Opus Bermuda

    Ligare book printing.

    The Federal Court has ordered a meeting of Opus Group shareholders in September to vote on the company’s plan to exit the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) and re-domicile to Bermuda.

    ‘In the best interests of Opus shareholders’: Richard Celarc, chairman Opus Group.

    The Hong Kong-owned company, which includes leading Australian print businesses Ligare, CanPrint and McPherson’s – wants to delist from the ASX, re-domicile from Australia to Bermuda and apply for a listing on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong.

    The re-domiciliation plan, announced in June, would see Opus shareholders 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.

    “Opus Group is pleased to confirm that the Federal Court today ordered that a meeting of Opus shareholders be convened to consider and, if thought fit, to approve the scheme of arrangement under which Left Field Printing Group will acquire Opus to effect the re-domiciliation of Opus and to undertake a list on the main board of the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong,” the company told the ASX.

    The Opus board has unanimously recommended that shareholders vote in favour of the scheme. “The Opus board considers that the re-domiciliation to Bermuda will be more attractive to international visitors, will allow Opus Group to seek fiscal efficiencies, is a stable jurisdiction and is a common choice for entities listed on HKEx.

    “As Opus’s key operations will still be located in Australia, the Opus directors do not expect any significant changes to the Opus Group’s assets and operations as a result of the scheme.”

    Opus chairman Richard Celarc said the board’s recommendation has been supported by Lonergan Edwards, an independent expert engaged by the board. “The independent expert had concluded that the proposed transaction is in the best interests of Opus shareholders,” Celarc said.

    The shareholder meeting will be held at 11am on 6 September 2018, at Club Rivers, 32 Littleton Street, Riverwood, NSW.

  • 3D printed handguns seized in Queensland

    The 3D printer allegedly used to manufacture handguns (photo: Queensland Police).

    Queensland Police recovered three handguns, thought to have been manufactured using a 3D printer, during a raid on a house at Mudjimba on the Sunshine Coast. Officers also discovered false driver’s licences and credit cards allegedly made using a card printer and scanning equipment.

    Two of three handguns found by police (photo: Queensland Police).

    “The three handguns and various weapon parts seized were allegedly produced by a 3D printer over the last two months and capable of being fired,” according to a police statement.

    A 27-year-old Mudjimba man was arrested on a number of charges including possessing dangerous weapons, supplying dangerous drugs, fraud and possession of equipment for the purpose of committing an offence.

    The second printer seized in the raid (photo: Queensland Police).

    Police did not identify the brand and model of the 3D printer but released a photo (above), along with a photo of a HiTi CS-320 desktop printer (right) that was allegedly used to print fake credit cards. 

    Detective Senior Sergeant Daren Edwards told The Courier-Mail the weapons appeared close to completion and were missing only a handful of metal parts, including a firing pin.

    Earlier this month, the US Department of Justice ruled that blueprints to print and build 3D guns could be re-uploaded to the internet, following a four-year court battle between the State Department and Defense Distributed – the company that designed a 3D handgun called ‘The Liberator.’  The US gun lobby hailed the decision as “a victory for free speech.”

    Plans for the handgun were downloaded more than 100,000 times in two days after they appeared online in May 2013, before the US government ordered their removal. Later that year, NSW police spent $35 on materials to create a Liberator in 27 hours, using a $1700 desktop 3D printer. The only metal parts used where the firing pin, created with a nail, and a .380 ACP calibre cartridge. In 2015, police in Queensland recovered “a loaded handgun allegedly created by a 3D printer” in a raid on a meth lab. 

    Police say the all-plastic body of 3D handguns means they are difficult to detect during security screenings.

  • Fairfax print closures ‘just the beginning’

    Fairfax Media printing plant at Ormiston, Brisbane.

    The AMWU says the ‘devastating’ closures of Fairfax newspaper printing plants at Ormiston in Brisbane and Beresfield in Newcastle could be just the beginning, with the North Richmond site next in the firing line.

    “This is just the start of further consolidation in the newspaper sector in Australia,” says AMWU Queensland print division secretary Danny Dougherty. “It’s just the beginning. They could shut down North Richmond next then move on to the sites in Melbourne.”

    Former rivals Fairfax Media and News Corp this week announced a ‘landmark’ plan to share their printing networks in a consolidation restructure that will see Fairfax close its Ormiston and Beresfield printing centres with the loss of more than 120 print jobs.

    Fairfax at North Richmond.

    As part of the deal, Fairfax metropolitan newspapers currently produced at North Richmond, including The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian Financial Review, will now be printed at News Corp Chullora.

    “This change will open up print windows allowing North Richmond to absorb work from Fairfax’s Beresfield site, including for a number of ACM titles, as well as some products for News Corp,” Fairfax said in a statement. “The announced changes will impact printing schedules at the North Richmond site. Once the transition of work is complete, the company will assess its operations, including rostering and staffing levels, and consult and engage with staff regarding any changes that may be necessary.”

    Doughtery says the announcement this week took the workers by surprise. “There were no discussions. They were called into a meeting at Ormiston on Wednesday morning and told their jobs were gone. It’s very hard for people in these situations. No-one’s prepared. It all happened very quickly and they’re shocked and devastated.”

    At least 55 printing workers lost their jobs at the Brisbane plant and another 70 people are out the door at Beresfield in Newcastle, NSW.

    “Then there’s the flow on effect to people like the drivers who are delivering the papers,” says Doughtery. “We’re still not sure what’s happening in other parts of the company, with people who work in digital, as well as editors and journalists. There’s talk that Fairfax will sell the building.”

    ‘Our members are angry’: Lorraine Cassin, AMWU.

    Lorraine Cassin, national secretary of the AMWU printing division, says the union will meet with Fairfax to discuss any further changes to the operation at North Richmond, which recently completed a $20 million upgrade.

    “We were blindsided by the announcement and our members are angry,” says Cassin. “Fairfax Media has indicated all affected employees will be paid their full entitlements but we know that these closures will hit hard and we will be working with the company to identify redeployment opportunities.

    “While Fairfax Media has stated that the rationalisation is designed to effect ‘efficiencies,’ we urge the company to recognise that its highly skilled printers have given many years of loyal service to the newspaper industry.”

    Mass meetings of sacked workers will be held on Monday.

  • End of an era: Fairfax and News confirm landmark newspaper printing deal

    Fairfax Media and News Corp have announced a ‘landmark’ consolidation initiative that will see the once-bitter rivals sharing each other’s printing networks. Fairfax print sites at Beresfield (NSW) and Ormiston (Queensland) will close, with the loss of at least a hundred print jobs. The AMWU has called emergency meetings of affected workers at several sites.

    Fairfax flagships The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian Financial Review will now be printed at News Corp’s Chullora site. “As part of new arrangements, Metro work currently produced at North Richmond (The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian Financial Review) will transition to News Corp’s Chullora print site,” Fairfax told the AMWU this morning via email. “This change will open up print windows allowing North Richmond to absorb work from Fairfax’s Beresfield site, including for a number of ACM titles, as well as some products for News Corp.

    ‘A rational approach to complex issues’: Greg Hywood, CEO Fairfax Media.

    “The announced changes will impact printing schedules at the North Richmond site. Once the transition of work is complete, the company will assess its operations, including rostering and staffing levels, and consult and engage with staff regarding any changes that may be necessary.”

    In statements to the ASX on Wednesday morning, the companies say News Corp will provide a range of printing services for Fairfax in New South Wales and Queensland, while Fairfax will print publications for News Corp out of its North Richmond (NSW) plant.

    “These are landmark initiatives,” said Fairfax CEO and managing director Greg Hywood. “They demonstrate a rational approach to the complex issues facing the industry. The printing arrangements make the production of newspapers more efficient for both publishers. Better utilisation of existing print assets makes sense and will deliver economic benefits to Fairfax Media.”

    Hywood says there will be no change to the availability of Fairfax newspapers. “The agreements deliver greater cost variabilisation, enabling us to produce newspapers well into the future.

    “Our decision to rationalise some printing assets reduces capital intensity. We expect the combination of the new arrangements, and the changes to Fairfax’s printing network to result in an annualised full-year benefit of approximately $15 million. The financial benefits are expected to begin towards the end of FY19 H1.

    “From today, we are consulting with staff at our printing centres affected by the new arrangements. Fairfax is committed to providing comprehensive assistance and support and will meet all our employment obligations.”

    Following consultation with staff and a transition period, work will progressively shift to other sites and the Beresfield and Ormiston print sites are scheduled to close, Fairfax told the AMWU. “As a result, all positions at Ormiston and Beresfield sites will be redundant and employees will be exiting unless suitable redeployment opportunities are able to be identified.

    “Management has commenced meetings today with affected employees to inform them of the changes. As part of the consultation process, the company will seek feedback and discuss measures to mitigate or avert the effects of changes. This will include exploring any potential redeployment opportunities and providing outplacement services.”

    ‘This is a commercial deal which makes commercial sense’: Michael Miller, executive chairman, News Corp Australasia.

    In its announcement, News Corp says it will provide seven-day printing services to Fairfax in NSW and Queensland. Fairfax will print some publications for News Corp out of its North Richmond plant.

    News Corp Australasia executive chairman Michael Miller says the arrangements demonstrate the company’s confidence in the future of printed newspapers and in the influence and impact of trusted newspaper journalism.  In addition, he said the arrangements with Fairfax Media provides benefits of scale and efficiency.

    “As a publisher, we have absolute confidence in the ongoing significance of newspapers.  Within this framework, we need to continue to look at the most effective and efficient ways to produce newspapers. This is a commercial deal which makes commercial sense by enabling better use of our existing print facilities.”

    In addition to NSW and Queensland, Miller says talks are continuing to develop further opportunities that ensure the competitiveness and viability of News Corp’s mastheads.

    News says the arrangement mirrors that in place in New Zealand, where HT&E Media (formerly APN Media) prints certain Fairfax newspaper titles, and in Britain where News UK prints the newspapers of its competitors e.g.  Daily Mail, Evening Standard, The Daily Telegraph(UK) and the Daily Express.

    The new printing arrangement will commence this month and the companies say they will continue to explore further opportunities. There has been no announcement yet about their newspaper printing sites in Victoria.

    Last week, Fairfax Media and News Corp said they had dismissed an earlier proposal by their hired business advisor Deloitte to close five newspaper printing plants across NSW, Victoria and Queensland. The AMWU said hundreds of print workers would have been made redundant under the plan. That proposal would have shut down Fairfax at North Richmond, which will now continue operations.

  • Posh Printing calls in administrator

    Prominent Sydney CBD printer Posh Printing has gone into voluntary administration and a creditors’ meeting has been called for next week.

    The company’s Pitt Street business was closed about eight weeks ago but the smaller Castlereagh Street location continues to operate as usual.

    “We’re still turning over a lot of work every day, mostly corporate and legal, and we’ve just completed 25 legal binders this morning,” said a staff member at the Castlereagh Street store on Tuesday morning.

    Long-term Posh owner Garry Jack, who’s in his mid-70s, is now based in Brisbane and is said to be semi-retired.

    Since being established in the early 1980’s, the family owned and operated company gained a well-earned reputation as a print and design company serving all sectors of corporate sector in central Sydney.

    Posh specializes in document re-production, wide format posters, plan prints, business cards, brochures and corporate identity stationery, as well as graphic design through to binding and finishing.

    Administrator Christopher Darin of Worrells Solvency & Forensic Accountants was appointed on Monday and the first meeting of the creditors of the company will be held at Suite 1, Level 15, 9 Castlereagh Street in Sydney at 11am on 24 July 2018.

  • 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.”