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P/E fund banks on corrugated and textile growth in $1.7bn EFI buy

Wednesday, 17 April 2019
By Wayne Robinson

Corrugated and textiles: Bill Muir (right) EFI CEO with Print21 editor Wayne Robinson

EFI is being sold to US private equity fund Siris, which is stumping up $1.7bn in a leveraged all-cash deal for 100 per cent of the shares to acquire the billion dollar technology business, aiming to realise super-charged growth in packaging and textile printing for its returns.

Siris is paying $37 a share to become the new owner of EFI, a 45 per cent premium over the 90 day weighted share price, and 26 per cent over the the price prior to the buyout being announced. It will pay around 40 per cent as equity and 60 per cent as debt. The deal is subject to shareholder approval.

Siris has an investment strategy of buying companies that have a strong legacy business and cash flow, together with the potential to dominate markets through technology disruption. In EFI it sees the Fiery, MIS and wide format inkjet as its income base, while in digital corrugated printing, and in digital textile printing, it sees the company well positioned to become a major player in what could be huge markets in the next few years.

Speaking to Print21 this morning EFI chief financial officer Marc Olin said, “The deal will allow EFI to do good things. It will drive investment in high growth areas including digital corrugated and digital textile printing. It will also allow us to continue to invest in our Fiery, wide format and MIS operations. For the company, our customers and our employees the Siris investment is good news.”

According to Olin the digital corrugated printing equipment and inks market will rise from its current small base to $9bn, with textile digital printing equipment and inks market to hit $4bn. He said, “We anticipate EFI will be the largest player in the market. We recognise other companies are positioning themselves there too, and see that as a positive as it will all help drive the market.”

For EFI the Siris money will provide the injection it needs to take the company forward into new areas it needs in order to grow the business, as its legacy divisions, while delivering cash flow, have limited growth opportunities. And as EFI will delist from the Nasdaq it will take the company out of the 90 day reporting cycle which consumes a fair amount of management focus.

Private equity funds like Siris typically stay with a company for the first three to six years while they aim to boost the revenue, before selling and cashing in. They can also load the company with debt to pay for their acquisition in a leveraged buyout.

An affiliate of Siris Capital will pay $1.7bn for EFI, although under terms of the deal EFI has the next 45 days to find another buyer prepared to offer a higher price, with Siris then having the right to match any offer that comes in.

The two nascent markets identified by Siris have been front of mind for new EFI CEO Bill Muir. Speaking with me at its user conference Connect in January Muir indicated that is where he saw the growth opportunities, telling me, “I am looking at textiles and packaging in particular. I can see there are really good logical opportunities in these markets, both of which are a significant size.” It seems the Siris execs share his view, betting $1.7bn on those markets being realised.

EFI is one of the biggest technology companies in print, with a global reach, developing and manufacturing inkjet printing systems for multiple applications, along with digital workflow and MIS, and the Fiery rips on which the company was established. It is a major supplier to the Australian and New Zealand print industries. It was established in 1989 by Israeli genius Efi Arazi, who had previously founded Scitex, Israel’s first high tech company. Sales in the first year were around $2m, last year they touched the $1bn marker.

Commenting on the Siris deal EFI CEO Bill Muir said, “We believe this transaction delivers superior and immediate value to our shareholders while providing us with a partner that can add strategic and operational expertise to our business. We are excited to partner with the highly experienced Siris team on this next phase of growth for EFI.”

Muir took over as CEO last year, succeeding long time leader Guy Gecht who had a 17-year tenure at the top. Current share price at EFI is around $29, it was $44-$47 in the 2014-2017 period, but then slumped by a third overnight two years ago over an accounting issue. At its peak at the height of the dotcom boom in 2000 it reached $63, but when the boom collapsed it sank back to $15, where it remained for the next dozen years, until it tripled in value between 2012 and 2014.

Frank Baker, a Siris co-founder and managing partner, said, “EFI is at the forefront of the digital transition in the imaging and print industry, underpinned by a strong software heritage and culture of innovation. We believe that, by partnering with Siris, EFI will be well positioned to capture this transformational opportunity associated with increased digital inkjet penetration, industrial automation and software enablement. We are eager to partner with management to help the Company achieve its strategic objectives.”

Also commenting on the transaction, Al Zollar, a Siris executive partner, said “EFI has a 30-year legacy of leadership in the digital imaging market, with strong brand equity and a rich history of pioneering innovative solutions for its customers. The company’s portfolio of mission-critical products and services are united by a common thread of impressive technological enablement and software integration. I look forward to supporting EFI’s strong team to help the company anticipate evolving customer needs and drive new opportunities for innovation and growth.”

The proposed transaction is expected to close by the third quarter, and is subject to approval by EFI’s shareholders, along with the satisfaction of customary closing conditions including antitrust regulatory approvals. The transaction is not subject to any financing conditions. Upon completion of the acquisition, EFI will become wholly owned by an affiliate of Siris.

EFI will file its first quarter financial results but does not intend to host a quarterly earnings call. EFI currently expects Q1 2019 revenue to be between $220m and $225m.

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