Monday, August 30, 2010

How much lag-time between recovery for Architects and recovery for Reprographers?

Towards the end of the AIA article (published by the AIA in August 2010) about the July 2010 ABI Index, the author of the article, Jennifer Riskus, Manager of Economic Research, reported the following:

This month’s special questions followed up on last month’s questions about the timing of project design phases. Survey respondents reported that the largest share of their projects (42%) have a design phase (defined as lasting from the awarding of the design contract to the completion of the construction documents) that lasts less than six months, while an additional 24% of projects have a design phase typically lasting between six and nine months. Small firms are much more likely to have shorter design phases than large firms, with 59% of projects at firms with less than $250,000 in annual billings having design phases of less than six months, compared to just 23% of projects at firms with annual billings of $5 million or more. Projects at firms with an institutional specialization also tend to have a slightly longer design phase, with nearly half (47%) of projects at those firms having a design phase lasting between six and 12 months.

Our panelists indicated that the complexity of a project is the most important influence on the length of the design phase, followed by project size (construction value), type of client, and scope of design services offered. The project delivery method (e.g., design-build, design-bid-build, integrated project delivery) was not considered to be a very important factor.

- - - - - - - - - -

Joel's comments: All this does is pretty much confirm what reprographers have been saying for years. Architects begin to recover, revenue-wise, before Reprographers do, by about 6-9 months. For Reprographers, FM (OnSite) revenue should be a leading predictor of production center (off-site) revenue recovery (or, should I say, growth.)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Requesting Input from Reprographers !!! (Downloading files from PlanRooms)

Associates of mine in Europe are interesting in finding out how U.S. reprographers are dealing with the issue of "file downloads".

When the first reprographer-operated Internet PlanRooms began showing up in the U.S., most, if not all, did not permit (or, perhaps better put, did not enable) "file downloads." They offered "file viewing" and "print-ordering." Today, some reprographers, but certainly not all, operate PlanRooms that do enable file downloads in addition to file viewing and print-ordering.

Questions for the reprographer community:

- - What percent of U.S. reprographers do YOU think are now permitting "file downloads" from their Internet PlanRooms?

- - Of the U.S. reprographers who are permitting file downloads, what percent of U.S. reprographers who do so do YOU think are permitting file downloads "for free"? (in other words, for a price of $.00 per file download)

- - Of the U.S. reprographers who are charging for file downloads, what do YOU think is the current range of prices for file downloads? (In other words, from a high of $x.xx per file to a low of $y.yy per file).

Kindly either a) post your response as a comment to this post or b) send me an email at

Thank you.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

AIA ABI Index for July 2010 - Very slight increase from last month, but still showing declining demand

COMMENT: Right at this moment, it is 4:12 a.m. east coast USA time and 10:12 am where I am in Europe. I just noticed an article, on Yahoo Asia, about the July 2010 AIA ABI Index ..... so, here it is ..... (Yahoo attributes the article to, but I was unable to find the article on Reuters) ......

U.S. architecture billings index up in July -AIA
Reuters - Wednesday, August 18

* AIA July billings index up 1.9 pts to 47.9

* Project inquiries index drops 4.6 pts to 53.1

* Conditions remain volatile, trade group says

NEW YORK, Aug 18 - A closely watched leading indicator of U.S. nonresidential construction spending rose in July but remained at a level that indicates falling demand for the 30th consecutive month, an architects' trade group said on Wednesday.

The Architecture Billings Index was up 1.9 points last month to 47.9, the American Institute of Architects said. A forward-looking index of project inquiries fell 4.6 points to 53.1.

Readings above 50 indicate expansion, while those below 50 point to declining demand. Inquiries have stayed above 50 in recent months as builders seek multiple bids for design projects.

Business conditions remain volatile amid tight credit for construction. A weak economy, depressed real estate values and high unemployment have meant less need to put up structures like stores and office buildings.

"We continue to receive a mixed bag of feedback on the condition of the design market, from improving to flat to being paralyzed by uncertainty," said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker.

None of the four geographic regions tracked by the group was above 50, and only the commercial/industrial sector was above that mark in July.

The AIA's billings index is an indicator of construction spending nine to 12 months in the future, so current readings suggest a recovery will not take root until sometime in 2011.

The index is cited by companies that sell into the sector as a reliable gauge of demand. The AIA has forecast a 20 percent drop in spending on nonresidential construction this year, followed by a modest rebound in 2011.

Most diversified industrial companies derive at least some revenue from the nonresidential sector, selling machinery used in construction or the components of a building: elevators, electrical and lighting systems, heating and cooling and security networks, for example.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Commercial (Non-Res) Construction outlook "bleak" for rest of 2010; uptick "expected" in 2011

I found this article on

Costar Group is the # 1 Commercial Real Estate Information Company (Yes, that's what they say on their website.)

AIA Forecast: Private Commercial Construction To Fall Nearly 30% in 2010
Overall Nonresidential Development On Track for Deeper Decline This Year; Modest Uptick Predicted for 2011

By Randyl Drummer
July 20, 2010

Spending on commercial and other nonresidential construction is likely to fall more than 20% this year -- significantly more than forecasters predicted six months ago -- with hotel and office construction down by more than 43% and 29%, respectively, according to the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) midyear look at construction.

Even with a modest U.S. economic recovery under way, overall nonresidential spending is expected to drop 20.3% for 2010 -- and nearly 30% for private commercial development -- before edging up 3.1% in 2011, according to the AIA’s semi-annual Consensus Construction Forecast, a survey of the nation’s leading construction forecasters. Manufacturing facilities will see a 20% spending decline. Even dollars allocated to new government and other institutional buildings, previously a pillar of strength for builders, will likely fall 12%.

Meanwhile, another bit of breaking news from the AIA this week, the monthly Architect Billings Index (ABI), seems to confirm that construction weakness will most likely continue deep into next year.

Most significant commercial structures are designed by architects or other design professionals, making it instructive to examine how busy those designers are right now making blueprints and drawings that will ultimately lead to grading or a ceremonial construction ground breaking, nine months to a year in the future. According to the latest ABI, the architects association’s monthly survey of client billings, recovery may not be imminent.

Although the ABI report of June released Wednesday showed a slight slowing in the rate of decline in new building design activity, the index remains at 46 -- well below the threshold of 50 denoting positive growth in architect invoices.

Historically, actual hard construction activity doesn’t begin to recover until 9 to 12 months after billings from design firms begin to grow again and projects move off the drawing board and into the development pipeline.

The AIA’s consensus forecast panel was downbeat at the beginning of the year, projecting a 13.4% decline in construction spending for nonresidential projects. But at midyear, their outlook is still bleaker.

"Our construction forecast panel expects the weakness in the construction sector to continue well into 2011," said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker.

Most nonresidential construction building categories are weighed down by some degree of oversupply, combined with weak demand, declines in commercial property values, difficulty getting project financing and macroeconomic uncertainty. Those factors have contributed to "one of the steepest construction downturns in generations," Baker said.

"We have businesses nervous about expanding their facilities, a fragile financial sector, excess commercial space, and general unease in the international economy," Baker said.

Despite the glum assessment, there are still tendrils of optimism among economists and construction executives that conditions will get better next year.

Despite the projected decline of nearly 30% in commercial construction for 2010, architect billings for commercial projects was the only sector of the ABI to record positive gains in June. That points to a slight recovery next year, which correlates with the Baker's projection of 3.1% growth in total nonresidential construction in 2011.

Public and institutional construction, which held its own during the recession, is now feeling the bite of canceled municipal projects, diminishing stimulus money and budget shortfalls. Frank Martinez, executive vice president for Laguna Beach, CA-based Griffin Structures, said the competition for the small pool of contracts is fierce.

[Joel's comment: the above comment by Frank Martinez is 'good news' for reprographers, for the fiercer the competition in project bidding, the more sets of plans and specs that will be ordered.]

Martinez said a typical contract put out by one Los Angeles-area school district, which typically would have drawn eight or 10 bidders a couple years ago, now easily draws 50 to 100. Much of that new competition is from single-family home builders displaced by the downturn and seeking to infill their businesses with commercial and public work, he said.

That said, longtime pessimism among builders is slowly giving way to guarded optimism, according to Martinez.

"We're actually starting to see more RFPs [requests for proposals] coming out," said the executive for Griffin, which has done $1.5 billion in construction projects, the bulk of them buildings for county and municipal agencies.

Government deficits and spending cuts to make up budget shortfalls have had a major impact on public sector construction, Martinez said.

"With the state of California taking $2 billion from municipalities and poised to take more to staunch its red ink, it's forcing cities to be more creative with less, including fewer staff. In turn, we have to be more creative."

That often means developing projects in stages and helping clients find alternative financing solutions, Martinez said. Lower staffing levels mean agencies may not be equipped to hit the ground running as fast when economic growth picks up speed, he said.

The U.S. economy is improving, but demand for space and ultimately new commercial construction typically lags recovery in job markets and the broader economy by several quarters.

Although commercial property values have fallen more than 40% from their mid-2007 highs through the first quarter of this year, the declines have slowed significantly since the middle of last year. The risk of commercial mortgage and construction loan defaults remains a serious concern until values recover, however.

Tight lending standards continue to create problems for new nonresidential projects, the AIA's Baker noted. The Federal Reserve Board’s Senior Loan Officer Survey on Bank Lending Practices still points to restrictive lending conditions for commercial real estate loans. The April 2010 survey indicated that most banks kept their lending standards unchanged in the first quarter, and a few even tightened terms on business loans.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

C2 Repro opens new LA area location

Found on .....
Updated: August 9th, 2010 09:16 AM EDT

C2 Reprographics Opens Its Sixth Southern California Location

At a time when many construction-related firms are scaling back, C2 Reprographics has announced the opening of a sixth location that will serve Los Angeles' South Bay area. The new C2 location in Torrance at 2221 West 190th Street, Unit A, at Van Ness Avenue, opened on August 2, the company's second Los Angeles location. C2 has three locations in Orange County and one in San Diego.

Johnny Williams, a 16-year reprographics industry veteran, will lead the Torrance shop as manager to oversee operations and staff. Jack Willis, a South Bay native from Palos Verdes Estates with more than 20 years of sales experience and currently C2's downtown Los Angeles representative, will move to the South Bay location to serve the area.

"We are pleased to be opening our new location in the South Bay. We will bring C2's premier customer service to an area which has been underserved by our industry," said Gary Crisp, president and CEO, C2 Repro.

IRgA - relevancy - development of additional new standards

At the last IRgA Convention, one of the officers of the IRgA talked about the "declining membership" situation. Due to industry consolidation (primarily ARC) and the growth of affinity groups (PEiR Group, ReproMAX and RSA), the number of IRgA memberships has been on a downward spiral, for at least the past three or four years.

As I've said in several previous posts, my former companies were IRgA members, and, there is no question in my mind that both of my former companies derived benefits from being IRgA members. (One of my former companies was a member of MiniMAX and ReproCAD and the other one was a member of ReproMAX and The PEiR Group. And, at the same time, we were also IRgA members.)

It's now been three months since the last IRgA Convention, and, a couple of weeks ago, one of my industry friends (who is in a high position with a large reprographics enterprise) posed several questions about the IRgA .... these questions, basically, are restated and summarized by the following bullet points .....

1) If the IRgA had a full-time CEO, would the IRgA be better operated .... like any other business where the CEO is full-time dedicated to the mission of the business?

2) Why are the affinity groups (PG, RM, RSA) succeeding, gaining members, whereas the IRgA's membership is in decline? Is the lack of a full-time IRgA CEO - a person who would be solely focused on driving the goals of the group and thinking about benefits for the members - one of the reasons for that?

3) Would IRgA members benefit from the development of additional, industry-sponsored "standards?" (An example of an industry standard is the "square foot chart" that the IRgA came up with many years ago; in my opinion, any reprographer who adopted that standard derived great benefits.) Could the development of additional new standards include matters like "standards for charging for digital services", "standards for billing seat licenses", and matters similar to those?

The biggest question in my mind is "how does the IRgA remain relevant?" If it cannot remain relevant, then the IRgA will probably not be around several years from now, especially if its membership roll continues to decline.

While I am a proponent of the development of industry-sponsored standards - for all reprographers stand to benefit financially from those - I have no real interest in using my blog-site to lobby IRgA Officers and Board Members to "get with the program" of developing standards; that's something that YOU should be doing, if, of course, you believe that the IRgA should be doing that.

The financial challenge that the IRgA faces can only be solved by two things happening. #1 - consolidators must require their operating companies to be dues-paying members of the IRgA, #2 - affinity groups must require their member companies to be dues-paying members of the IRgA, and #3 - all non-member reprographers should continued to be encouraged to join the IRgA. Without that, there may not be an IRgA several years from now.

American Reprographics vs. Service Point Solutions - current stock prices and current analyst recommendations

SHARES CLOSED AT $8.25 USD, yesterday, August 10, 2010

52 Week high – $11.31 USD
52 Week low - $5.11 USD

SHARES CLOSED AT .56 EURO, yesterday, August 10, 2010

52 Week high – 1.23 EURO
52 Week low - .53 EURO


Number of Analysts with current "Buy" recommendation -1
Number of Analysts with current "Outperform" recommendation - 0
Number of Analysts with current "Hold" recommendation - 4
Number of Analysts with current "Underperform" recommendation -0
Number of Analysts with current "Sell" recommendation - 0

Number of Analysts with current "Buy" recommendation -1
Number of Analysts with current "Outperform" recommendation - 0
Number of Analysts with current "Hold" recommendation - 0
Number of Analysts with current "Underperform" recommendation -1
Number of Analysts with current "Sell" recommendation - 2

Tuesday, August 10, 2010 strikes strategic alliance with the printing franchise companies owned by Franchise Services, Inc.

Most reprographers, by now, know who is. If you don't, they are the digital copying/printing company (based) in Memphis (TN) that, years ago, developed some very cool proprietary software that enabled customers to submit documents in virtually any file format and be able to get immediately on-line proofs. convinces customers, wherever they are, to submit their print jobs, over the Internet, to Mimeo's large production hub in Memphis, where jobs are printed (often overnight) and then overnight-shipped via Fedex to anywhere in the U.S. PlansExpress was also in that business in Memphis (may still be, for all I know), but whereas specialized in "small-format", PlansExpress specialized in "AEC large-format." The "nice thing" about shipping from Memphis - you only have to pay Fedex "one-way", since Fedex's main distribution hub is in Memphis.

Anyway, I just noticed that entered into some sort of "strategic alliance" with the three U.S.-based quick-copy/digital printing franchisors owned by FSI. Here's the press release:

Sir Speedy, PIP and Signal Graphics Launch Strategic Alliance with

0 7/29/2010

MISSION VIEJO, Calif., July 29, 2010 – Franchise Services, Inc., (FSI) parent company of Sir Speedy, PIP Printing and Marketing Services and Signal Graphics, and, a print technology solutions company, today announced a new production print solution that enables business customers to have anywhere, anytime access to printing. 

Under the terms of a new strategic alliance between the two companies, Mimeo’s print technology platform will support the Sir Speedy, PIP and Signal Graphics brands so that their customers will have remote access to a scalable online solution that includes virtual proofing, an unlimited document library, document management and online ordering and tracking tools. The program is designed to enable Sir Speedy, PIP and Signal Graphics franchise brands to capture a larger share of the $108 billion dollar global digital print market, with a focus on the 65% of all print expenditures that fall to printing and marketing services providers. 

“Our goal with this program is to help our franchisees capture those customers who prefer to order their printed documents online, customers we have not easily had access to in the past,” said Richard Lowe, President and Chief Operating Officer of Franchise Services. “Now a business customer will be able to place an order by 10 p.m. EST and receive it by 8:00 the next morning.” 

“We are pleased to support FSI’s franchisees with the Software as a Service (SaaS) applications and expanded digital production print capabilities sought by their customers,” said Adam Slutsky, CEO. “This complementary alliance combines the best of what we both have to offer, world class solutions that can help businesses of any size optimize the way they print and distribute documents through 24/7 access to a virtual library and online ordering portal.”

About Franchise Services
Franchise Services, Inc., (FSI) is a franchise management company that owns the franchise brands, Sir Speedy, PIP Printing and Marketing Services, Signal Graphics, MultiCopy, TeamLogic IT and Copies Now. Franchise Services has a 40-year history managing award-winning brands that support the small- to medium-sized business market. The company’s brands and worldwide affiliates encompass more than 600 locations in 13 countries.

FSI’s brands have received numerous awards and recognition including; the Franchise Times Top 200, Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500, Quick Printing Top 100, Printing Impressions 400, Franchise Times Fast 55, Franchise 50 and the International Franchise Association’s Franchisee of the Year Award.

About is the innovator of online, on-demand cloud printing services. Over 60% of the Fortune 100 rely on Mimeo’s award winning document management tools and print on demand solutions to lower document related costs while improving employee productivity. The privately held company was founded in 1998. Investors include Hewlett Packard (HP), Goldman Sachs (GS), Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Harbourvest, and DFJ Gotham.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Service Point's 51%-owned French subsidiary (Reprotechnique) to restructure

At the end of the Press Release Service Point issued to announce its 1st Half 2010 Financial Results, Service Point's Press Release said this:

Reprotechnique’s restructuring plan

The shareholders of Reprotechnique, a French company where Service Point holds a 51% stake acquired in June 2008, have formally applied for a “Redressement Judiciaire”, a process aimed at redressing the company’s economic trend and undertaking a plan to make the said subsidiary viable whilst not entailing an additional financial burden on shareholders’ funds.

Joel's comments:

My french-language skills are not very good (disclaimer; I took 2 years of French in high-school, but that was over 45 years ago!), so I was not familiar with the french words, "redressement judiciaire". I copied those two words into the translation window on Google Translate and Google Translate came up with this translation: "receivership".

After doing some further Googling on the words, "Redressement judiciaire," I came up with a web-site at (France's English-language newspaper), on which I found an article about "bankruptcy" in France. I don't think that "Redressement judiciaire" means or is the same thing as "bankruptcy", and I'm only mentioning the article I found because it does mention "Redressement judiciaire" and, if you care to read more about that term and what it means (or might mean), have at it .....

"What to know about bankruptcy"
Connexion edition: October 2009
BY THE end of the year 70,000 businesses will have failed in France, according to a recent study by credit insurers Euler Hermes SFAC - a rate not seen since 1990 and 20% more than 2008.

In France bankruptcy procedures involve several stages aimed at trying to keep a business afloat.
Bankruptcy may be translated as faire faillite, though this is no longer used officially. In everyday language people also call it déposer son bilan. The modern procedure usually involves three stages - cessation de paiements, then redressement judiciaire and liquidation judiciare.

If your business is in serious difficulty with payments a procédure de sauvegarde may stave off bankruptcy. This involves formal negotiations with creditors under judicial supervision to help you reorganise. This is done on application to a tribunal de commerce.

Two other options with a similar aim involve nomination by the court of intermediaries between the firm and creditors called a mandataire ad hoc or a conciliateur (the latter is available even after cessation de paiements, for 45 days).

A business is said to be in cessation de paiements once it is unable to pay its due debts. The owner is obliged to declare it to the tribunal de commerce within 45 days unless conciliation is under way (it is the tribunal de grande instance for professions libérales, sociétés civiles and associations). The court will call the owner for a private hearing within 15 days. It then either opens redressement judiciaire or goes straight to liquidation judiciaire if it is impossible for it to be saved.

Redressement (literally “setting something back on its feet”) allows for the business to continue, maintain employment and start paying debts.

The court designates a juge-commissaire (a judge to oversee correct procedure), a mandataire judiciare who acts in the interest of creditors. An administrateur judiciaire (administrator) may also be appointed (obligatory for large firms only). A firm may also be called into redressement following a writ from a creditor or a request from the government or a court (for example if conciliation has failed).

There is an observation period of up to 18 months, during which the administrator may help the business owner or run the business themselves. Third parties interested in buying the firm to maintain activity are invited to make offers.

During the observation period the firm may be closed on debts being paid off or the court may decide to liquidate it. Otherwise, a recovery plan (for up to 10 years), is worked out if there is a chance it can be saved. This includes an agreement on how to pay debts, accounting for agreed delays and discounts, and may involve stopping certain activities. The administrator agrees on whether contracts for ongoing work should be fulfilled and limits on payment of new debts are set.

The redressement is noted (if appropriate) in the registre du commerce et des sociétés or répertoire des métiers and is inserted in BODACC (an official civil and commercial announcements bulletin) and a legal announcements journal.

If redressement is impossible, liquidation judiciare follows on order of the court.

An employment law expert for Dordogne Chamber of Commerce, Philippe Berlouin, said the impact on owners varied.

“If they are a sole trader and have not protected themselves with a déclaration d'insaisissabilité [drawn up with a notaire] they may have to sell some of their own assets to pay debts. The owner of a limited company is protected unless they are deemed to have acted improperly.”

• On you can consult information on firms, including, for €1.55, details of procédures de sauvegarde or orders of redressement or liquidation. You can also set a notification alert for changes.

Effects on staff

YOU may face redundancy during the redressement period if it is decided your job has to be sacrificed to keep the firm going. If your firm is liquidated you will also be made redundant. Staff must be paid any compensation they are entitled to under contracts (eg. for the redundancy and untaken holidays), if necessary using a national insurance scheme funded by employers’ contributions (la garantie des salaires) - this scheme can also be used to ensure staff are paid during redressement.

There is usually an administrative delay of about a month before unemployment pay can be established following redundancy, but the compensation helps tide them over, according to employment law expert Philippe Berlouin.

“Some times there can be extra delays, for example if the employees were not properly informed of their right to either take ordinary redundancy or to a follow a conversion plan.”

The CRP plan gives benefits and priority for job training - see Redundancy: the start not the end

If there are disputes over compensation or the employee feels correct procedure was not followed, an application to the conseil des prud'hommes may be made.

“For example, they might not have been asked to a preliminary interview before being made redundant within the correct period - there are very formal rules.” This application is free and usually no lawyer is required, though it may be advisable, in which case possible legal aid will be means-tested. Sometimes people may have a legal assistance component to an insurance policy.


If a company is undergoing redressement this will include establishing committees of major creditors who will be consulted.

Creditors should lodge details of what they are owed with the mandataire judiciaire.

In liquidation, a liquidator is appointed to pay creditors with remaining assets based on a set order of precedence, with legal costs, salaries, taxes and charges top priority, then banks, suppliers and finally customers.

Service Point - Financial Results 1H 2010

Service Point just issued its 1H 2010 Report.

Before you look at the detailed SP 1H 2010 report and read SP’s press release, just a quick comparison (of Q2 2010 results) of the only two public companies who have significant interests in the “reprographics” business and industry:

American Reprographics Co……Q2 2010
REVENUES………………. 115.1 MIL USD
EBITDA……………………. 23.1 MIL USD
EBITDA Margin…………… 18.5%

Service Point……………………Q2 2010
REVENUES…………….…... 53.5 MIL EURO
EBITDA…………………….. 3.67 MIL EURO
EBITDA Margin…………….. 6.9%

Service Point’s “Results – 1H 2010” can be found at:

If you want to compare SP's 1H 2010 numbers with previous numbers (for several years), Bloomberg publishes that information at this Internet address:

And, this is the Press Release Service Point Issued on August 6, 2010:
Service Point attains profits in the second quarter of 2010

The company’s results follow a positive development in line with the forecast of sustained improvement throughout the 2010 financial year and compared to the second half of 2009. EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes) for the second quarter exceeds the figure recorded in the same period of last year.

6 August 2010. - Service Point Solutions, S.A. (Stock Exchange symbol: SPS.MC) closed the first half of 2010 with sales of € 105.7 million, 6.3% below those of the preceding year. The various cost-reduction measures continue to have a positive impact on the income statement, showing that, with a lower level of revenues, better comparable results are obtained.

In June 2010, five of the eight countries where Service Point has a presence registered increased sales in spite of the weakness still experienced by the AEC (architecture, engineering and construction) segment, which was offset by growth in print by order, education (which is proving to be anti-cyclical with new contracts in Germany and
England) and financial (+28% in June compared to the same period last year).

Standardised EBITDA reached € 8 million, with progress in the reduction of margins with respect to the previous year. All countries where the Group is present, excluding the French subsidiary Reprotechnique, have made a positive contribution to the company’s EBITDA.

EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes or operating profit) for the second quarter exceeds the figure obtained in the same period last year.

Evolution by market

The quarter-on-quarter comparison shows a progressive improvement in the reported period. In addition, all countries – except for France with Reprotechnique, owned by Service Point as to 51% – made a positive contribution to the company’s EBITDA.

Norway, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and the United States have been the main contributors to the Group’s cash flow generation in the first half of 2010. Germany, Spain and Belgium continue increasing their activity. In addition, the Spanish subsidiary increased its revenues by 15% in June with respect to the same month in 2009. Notably, all countries are showing signs of stabilisation and progressive improvement in their overall results.

Growth plan

As announced at the last Annual General Meeting, Service Point intends to recover the path of growth through strategic acquisitions of sound and long-standing companies carried out at attractive valuation multiples.

At present, Service Point is at the stage of the legal and accounting due diligence of an acquisition the results of which are satisfactorily progressing; the target company’s integration, before taking into account economies of scale and synergies of costs and revenues, makes a positive contribution to all metrics of Service Point’s income
statement and balance sheet.

Reprotechnique’s restructuring plan

The shareholders of Reprotechnique, a French company where Service Point holds a 51% stake acquired in June 2008, have formally applied for a “Redressement Judiciaire”, a process aimed at redressing the company’s economic trend and undertaking a plan to make the said subsidiary viable whilst not entailing an additional financial burden on shareholders’ funds.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The “Great Recession” has certainly taken a toll on Architecture Firms …..

I did a previous post about the closing, earlier this year, of Rink Design, a long-time, well-known, well-regarded Architecture firm in Jacksonville, FL. Jack Diamond, the senior principal of Rink Design Partnership, has since opened a new firm, Diamond Architectural Group.

I certainly don’t know how many Architecture firms have closed their doors altogether or taken their businesses into bankruptcy and reorganized (and remained open), since the “Great Recession” began impacting the A/E/C industry in late 2007 (and, for some, a bit earlier than that.) But, I do know that many Architecture firms in the U.S. (and elsewhere) have seriously downsized their staffs.

I was doing some “International” Architecture research today and decided, for whatever reason, to Google “Architecture firm closes” …. and, as you might have guessed, quite a number of “architecture-firm-closes” articles came up. I’m going to mention a few of those:

The End of Sienna Architecture
Posted by Brian Libby, January 15, 2009
In today's Oregonian it was my sad duty to report on the closing of Sienna Architecture Company. Originally known as JKS Architecture before a 1990s name change that accompanied a new focus on urban infill, Sienna has operated in Portland for almost 58 years. As recently as last summer, the firm employed 45 people in its local office and 9 more in Seattle. But unfortunately, an October cut in staff couldn't stem the tide.

A Once Eminent Firm Meets a Bitter End
By John Gallagher, January 28, 2010
The legacy firm of famed midcentury Modernist Minoru Yamasaki has closed its doors amid a sea of recriminations and debts. Yamasaki Associates, based in Troy, Michigan, eight miles north of Detroit, was shuttered on December 31. It laid off its remaining full and part-time staff—about 10 employees—and left behind a welter of lawsuits and unpaid claims. The owner, businessman Ted Ayoub, a non-architect who had bought the firm in 2007, is reportedly traveling in the Middle East and has not been available for comment.

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010 | Posted by robin
Birmingham Architecture firm HKW Associates closes its doors. The report came out today that HKW, the architecture and planning firm founded in Birmingham in 1994, is shutting its doors due to economic circumstances brought on by the recent recession. Many architecture firms not just in Birmingham, but around the country, are in precarious states as the construction and design industries appear to be among the last to benefit from improvements in the economy.

Architectural firm that shaped Newark and N.Y.C. skylines closes after 104 years
Published: Thursday, March 25, 2010
An iconic architectural firm that helped shape skylines in New York City, Newark and the nation’s capital has closed after more than a century designing skyscrapers, symphony houses and sports arenas. Grad Associates, responsible for such landmark structures as the Essex House Hotel, a 40-story Art Deco tower built in 1930 on New York’s Central Park South; the Raymond Commerce Building, the 1929 Art Deco tower that at one point was New Jersey’s tallest structure and the Department of Defense’s Forrestal Building complex in Washington, D.C., shuttered its doors at Two Gateway Center in Newark on Feb. 21. The architectural giant — which had 135 employees at its height in the 1980s, was the victim of the dearth of commercial projects during the Great Recession.

Cubellis, One of Boston’s Largest Firms, Shuttered
By C. J. Hughes, December 4, 2009
Cubellis, a top-earning international architecture and engineering firm headquartered in Boston, has closed. The 23-year-old firm, which has 12 offices, including one in Dubai, told its employees of the shutdown the day before Thanksgiving, according to the Boston Business Journal, which first reported the news. In 2008, the firm came in 60th out of the U.S.’s 250 most-successful firms, with revenues of $51 million, according to a survey by Architectural Record.

Victim Of Economy, City Architecture Firm Closes After 62 Years
September 25, 2009 | By Lorraine Mirabella
Baltimore architectural firm Cochran, Stephenson & Donkervoet will close Oct. 2 after 62 years, a victim of a recession that has hit hard in the housing and health care sectors. The firm, which at its peak employed more than 100 people in Baltimore and three other cities, has been reducing staff and office space for several months and now employs 35 to 40 people in Baltimore and Dallas, with about two dozen in Baltimore. "This was not an easy decision for the stockholders," said Chairman Tom Spies. The company "did succumb to the country's current economic crisis, the disappearance of funding options for senior living developers and extreme caution in the health care sector," areas in which the firm specializes.

By: Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson, May 24, 2010
The Rise and Fall (and Rebirth) of CSD
How could one of Baltimore’s oldest and largest architecture firms suddenly collapse? Ed Hord remembers Sunday, Sept. 6, 2009, as a particularly sunny day in Baltimore. The senior principal of design firm Hord Coplan Macht (HCM) was at home when he received a phone call from Tom Spies, then the senior vice president of CSD Architects. Hord and Spies were practically neighbors—in business and in life—with offices blocks from one another and homes in the same bucolic neighborhood north of the city. HCM and CSD were not exactly competitors, but they did share a healthy rivalry; over the years, Hord and Spies had developed a kinship in the small pond that is Baltimore architecture. When Spies said he needed to talk, Hord told him to come right over. (Part of CSD has since been merged into HCM.)

Green prehab Architecture firm calls it quits.
May 26, 2009
Green prefab architecture firm Michelle Kaufmann Designs is calling it quits, a victim of the credit crisis and broader woes in the economy. In a letter sent over Memorial Day weekend, Kaufmann told clients the firm would close by the end of this week. She confirmed the news in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. Kaufmann, who worked for Frank Gehry and Michael Graves early in her career, was a pioneer in the so-called modern prefab movement of recent years. She was also one of the first architects to make a persuasive case that prefab design, which reduces construction waste and damage to building sites, among other benefits, was in a number of ways synonymous with sustainability. After launching her own firm in Northern California in 2004, she oversaw an office that grew to include two dozen staffers, operated its own factory outside Seattle and completed more than 40 prefab houses, most of them on the West Coast. The firm developed several house templates and also offered lighting, sinks and other products on its website.

Architecture firm RTKL closes down sports group led by Turner
Published December 01, 2008
The slowdown in sports construction has forced architects to lay off designers and support staff. The most noticeable cuts came at RTKL in Los Angeles, which eliminated its sports and public assembly group led by Ron Turner, a company vice president. Turner, an industry pioneer whose 30-year résumé includes designing Staples Center, Safeco Field and Paul Brown Stadium, and three other architects in the sports division were let go in mid-November, confirmed Thom McKay, an RTKL vice president in Baltimore. The firm hired Turner in August 2005.

Architectural firm closes doors: Citing the ailing national economy, BSW ceases operations.
By Robert Evatt Tulsa World, Okla. Date: Thursday, August 28 2008
Publication: Tulsa World (Oklahoma)
BSW International Inc., a Tulsa-based architectural firm that specialized in restaurant, retail and lodging design, has ceased operations. CEO Bob Workman said Wednesday that the weak national economy caused work to dry up, making it impossible to continue. "The economy is a lot worse than people give it credit for," he said. "Architects are like canaries in a coal mine when it comes to the economy." Most of the 110 employees in the company's offices in Tulsa at 1 W. Third St; Tampa, Fla.; Irvine, Calif.; Dallas; and Phoenix were laid off. A skeleton crew will remain to connect clients with other architectural firms and help former employees find jobs.

Architect Lagrange's Firm Files For Bankruptcy; Lucien Lagrange Himself To Retire.
Jul 16, 2010 1:00 pm US/Central
Renowned Chicago architect Lucien Lagrange is retiring and his firm is filing for bankruptcy. Among the projects in which architect Lucien Lagrange was involved was the renovation of the Blackstone Hotel at Michigan and Balboa avenues. The Chicago Sun-Times reported Friday that Lagrange's firm filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy due to debts of between $1 million and $10 million. Lagrange told the newspaper that he had run into financial trouble because he is owed more than $1 million for a project in Saudi Arabia that has not been built. Lagrange was the go-to guy for several buildings in Chicago, most of them upper-bracket condo towers. Among them is the Park Tower with its Hyatt Hotel and luxury condos at 800 N. Michigan Ave., which became the city's 11th tallest building when it was completed in 2000.

And, from across the Atlantic Ocean ....

Prominent architectural firm, Murray O’Laoire Architects, closes
By Ciara O’BRIEN, Friday, March 26, 2010
One of Ireland's best-known architectural firms Murray Ó Laoire has gone into liquidation, with the loss of more than 120 jobs. The company cited cumulative bad debts, the difficult market and problems in getting paid on time for the collapse of the business. "The firm is unable to meet its current financial obligations as a result of cumulative bad debts and the ongoing difficulty of securing profitable work as well as the increasing difficulties in getting paid on time, or at all," it said in a statement. Murray Ó Laoire has offices in Dublin, Limerick, Cork, Slovakia, Russia, Germany, Libya, Barbados and Abu Dhabi. The company employs 127 people, with the majority of its staff based in Ireland. All offices will be shut as the firm goes into liquidation, including its design and the international subsidiaries. A creditors' meeting will be held in the coming days. In September Murray Ó Laoire let 40 of its staff go, as the slowdown in the building sector affected its business.

Where some of our taxpayer funded economic STIMULUS dollars are going !!!

I saw this article - specifically, the portion of the article that I'm going to share with you, and said to myself, "WTF, who's responsible for this stupid %$#@*% ___t?"

From the August 4th Issue of the St Louis Business Journal...

Two St. Louis-area stimulus projects made Republican U.S. Sens. John McCain and Tom Coburn’s list of “100 stimulus projects that give taxpayers the blues.”

One particular project....... totaling $180,935, ranked 95th on the list and involves researchers at the University of Missouri in Columbia studying a better way to freeze rat sperm. Once you deep-freeze laboratory rat sperm, it’s less useful when unfrozen, the report says. Calling it an “urgent need,” Mizzou scientists received stimulus money “to develop freezing protocols for the epididymal rat sperm which would allow reconstitution of genetics by using standard artificial insemination and in-vitro fertilization methods,” according to the report.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Interesting but very brief article about iSQFT

Most recent article I could find on the Internet about iSQFT....... found at

Power of Internet drives rapid growth of iSqFt in Blue Ash
Thursday, July 15, 2010

iSqFt has merged information technology with traditional bidding and construction planning methods to realize a 30 percent increase in revenue and a 230 percent jump in employment over the last two years.

Founded in 1993, the Blue Ash-based firm began as a client-based software firm, says Dave Conway, president and CEO. That started to change when the company became serious about leveraging the Internet.

The result was Internet Plan Room and Private Construction Offices.

"The Internet Plan room is a service for subcontractors to gain access to bidding projects," Conway says. "They get a list of the projects in their market area and are able to view those projects on blueprints, view the specifications, search queries and they can find the kind of projects they would like to bid on. We connect subcontractors to the general contractors who are actually bidding the job. And then the general contractors will use an online tool (Private Construction Office) to manage the bidding process so they can manage their documents, manage their data base of subcontractors as well as all the communications that occur during the bidding phase."

The technology improves business processes, which reduces costs and increases efficiencies and effectiveness, he says.

Not only has iSqFt been recognized as one of Ohio's fastest-growing companies, but as one of the best places to work. Along the way, employment has increased from 150 to 350 in the last two years.

The company has received both Ohio Third Frontier money -- $2 million in 2006 and another $1 million earlier this year to further develop its platform -- and venture capital from Ohio Capital Fund participants like River Cities Capital Fund, Chysalis Ventures, Tri-State Growth Capital Fund and Reservoir Venture Partners.

Source (of the information the writer used for the article): Dave Conway, iSqFt
Writer (of the article): Gene Monteith

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Joel's comment:

Okay, so it "sounds like" iSQFT's business has been growing all the way through the current recession (depression) in the AEC Industry. iSQFT continues to access capital (the article above mentions an additional $1 mil earlier this year). But, then, I continue to wonder about iSQFT's business model. If the model is so successful, then why does iSQFT continue to need access to VC / PEG capital?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Help me fill out my Google Analytics Map !!!

Google Analytics, the tracking tool that I use to track visits to Reprographics 101, reports that visitors to Reprographics 101, so far, have come from 44 different countries and from 46 different states in the U.S.

Help me, please.

If you are a reprographer and have friends in the reprographics business in any of the four "missing" U.S. states, please kindly contact them, give them the address of this blog-site and ask them to pay a visit to Reprographics 101

In other words, help me "light up" the full U.S. map.

Missing states:

West Virginia
South Dakota

Thank you.

ARC (NYSE: ARP) Q2 2010 Results

(From RTTNews) - American Reprographics Co. (ARP: News ) posted second quarter net income of $1.7 million or $0.04 per share, compared to $6.3 million or $0.14 per share in the previous year quarter.

On average, three analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected the company to report earnings of $0.05 per share for the period. Analysts' estimate typically exclude special items.

Net revenue for the second quarter was $115.1 million, compared to $131.1 million in the previous year quarter. Three Wall Street analysts expected revenues of $115.76 million.

Looking forward, for the fiscal year 2010, the company reaffirmed its earnings per share forecast in the range of $0.15 to $0.30. Street analysts expect earnings of $0.19 per share.

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Joel's comments:

First and foremost; while the AEC Industry remains mired in what has to be called a depression, not a recession, ARC continues to post earnings, not losses. That, in itself, is quite a feat. What's behind that is a management team that is aggressively rooting out unnecessary costs and lowering costs, the latter whenever and wherever that's possible. ARC looks to be on track to post revenues of around $447-452 million for FY 2010. That's a far cry from the $700 million in revenues that ARC posted for FY 2010. And, it looks like ARC's 2010 revenues will come in about 10% lower than the $500 million in revenues ARC posted for FY 2009. In spite of that, ARC continues to earn a profit, and, based on ARC's performance though the first half of 2010, that looks assured for the remainder of 2010.

Second, I my predictions of ARC's Q2 2010 revenues and EPS were well off the mark. Quite frankly, I expected to see more of an uptick in AEC-related revenues, simply because the 2nd Quarter of each year is traditionally the strongest quarter of the year for AEC reprographers. And, I expected to see more of an impact from ARC's non-AEC color business initiatives. Given the fact that ARC's Q2 2010 revenues a) did benefit, at least somewhat, from ARC's non-AEC color business initiatives, b) did benefit, at least somewhat, from the two national MPS deals Suri mentioned, and c) did benefit, at least somewhat, from growth in ARC's Asian-region sales, ARC's revenues from its core AEC reprographics business are still, disappointingly, lagging where I expected them to be in Q2.

Third, I haven't seen anyone, meaning any of the analysts and economists who follow and report on the AEC industry, predict a robust 2nd half 2010. Just to the opposite, everything I've read points to a problematic 2nd half 2010 for the AEC industry. And, that points to a problematic 2nd half 2010 for the AEC reprographics industry. But, in spite of that, ARC will turn a profit for the 2nd half of 2010. ARC is continuing to position its operations to benefit from the upswing that will come .... eventually. Just when that upswing will happen is the BIG question.

Fourth, hard to say what affect, if any, ARC's Q2 2010 results will have on the price of ARC shares. Given Suri's comments that ARC has not yet been able to place a stake in the ground to say that ARC's recovery has begun and that that may not happen until we are into 2011, it is likely that the stock will remain in a "ho-hum" holding pattern for quite some time, maybe even for the remainder of 2010. (Disclosure: I have never, ever, been able to successfully predict any company's future stock price.)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tax Policy - We need to enact tax legislation that targets job creation!

I’m now going to suggest TAX POLICY, one that, if followed, will spark “job recovery”. If we do not see a recovery in jobs, then there will not be an economic recovery for years and years. If we begin, and continue, to put people back to work, then they will have money to spend, and then, and only then, will we see a resurgence in consumer confidence and consumer spending. We need the latter in order to see a sustained economic recovery.

Congress has a long history of giving interesting names to modifications of our Federal Income Tax codes.

The tax policy I’m now suggesting be enacted into law can be titled “The Guaranteed-No-To-Be-Reelected Jobs-Recovery Net-Worth-Tax and Job-Tax-Credit,” or …. “TGNTBR JRNWT & JTC.”

Although I am positive this legislation would spark what would be a sustained economic recovery in the U.S., I seriously doubt that we have a single congressperson who would be willing to risk voting for this legislation, because, even though it makes sense from a tax and jobs creation perspective, it would be political suicide for anyone in Congress who relies on hand-outs from large companies, financial institutions, and high net-worth individuals. And, don’t they all rely on handouts?

The elements of “TGNTBR JRNWT & JTC”:

1) a One-Time Net-Worth-Tax of 10%; applicable to any individual who has a net worth exceeding $25 million but less than $50 million. The NW Tax would rise to 15% for an individual whose net worth exceeds $50 million.

2) a Job-Creation-Investment-Tax-Credit; companies who add employees to their payrolls would receive Tax Credits based on the total “net new compensation” paid to “additional” (new) employees.

3) a Job-Creation-Investment-Tax-Credit Pass-Through feature; high net worth individuals who are subject to the One-Time NW Tax are allowed to reduce and/or recapture the NW Tax by using Job-Tax Credits earned by companies who add additional employees to their payrolls. But, in order for individuals to be able to use these pass-through credits, they must invest in the equity (not debt) of the companies whose job-tax credits they use.

I also think we should enact tax legislation that “super-taxes” the profits of health insurance companies; these “super” taxes to be used to fund a government sponsored health-care insurance option. Our healthcare insurance system is totally out of control!

Consensus Construction Forecast

One of the more interesting articles, at this point (mid-point) in 2010, is the “Consensus Construction Forecast” article authored by Kermit Baker, Chief Economist of the AIA. This article was posted on the AIA web-site on or around July 16, 2010.

What makes this article interesting is that it is a compilation of different forecasts from several different analytical/research companies and economists who follow the AEC Industry and takes into consideration comments made in Federal Reserve Board Beige Book Reports.

The analysts/economists who participated in the "panel" survey included:
Bob Murray of McGraw-Hill Construction
Scott Hazleton of IHS-Global Insight
Mark Zandi of Moody’s
Heather Jones of FMI
Jim Haughey of Reed Construction Data

At the end of this point, I will post the Internet address of the full article, but, right now, I’d like to pull out some of the points made in that article.

* “As we entered 2010, the AIA Consensus Construction Forecast Panel was downbeat on the prospects for the year, projecting a 13% decline in spending (inflation adjusted) for nonresidential building projects. Halfway through the year, prospects have deteriorated, with the current consensus predicting a 20% decline this year.”

* “However, the international economic outlook should produce construction opportunities this year, and domestic opportunities should begin to present themselves next year.”

* “The construction sector continues to be a major drag on the economy, as payrolls in this industry have declined by 114,000 so far this year.”

* “The overall improvement in the economy has not yet turned around the nonresidential construction sector. Commercial property values nationally have fallen more than 40% from their mid-2007 high through the first quarter of this year ….. Until values recover, however, the risk of commercial mortgage defaults remains a serious concern and limits the demand for new construction activity since lower-priced existing facilities are generally considered a more attractive investment than building new ones.”

* “In spite of weak construction levels, weak demand is still pushing up vacancy rates. Reis, Inc., a real estate research firm, recently reported that U.S. office vacancy rates rose in the second quarter this year, and were approaching 18%. ”

* “The Federal Reserve Board’s Senior Loan Officer Survey on Bank Lending Practices still points to restrictive lending conditions for commercial real estate loans.”

* “Our construction forecast panel expects the weakness in the construction sector to continue well into 2011. Overall, they see nonresidential construction spending declining by just over 20% this year, with declines running close to 30% in the commercial sector, over 20% for manufacturing facilities, and even 12% for institutional buildings.”

* “Next year is projected to finally show some relief in the construction sector. The consensus for overall spending growth in nonresidential buildings is just over 3%, with more than 5% in the commercial sector, a 2% decline in manufacturing facilities, and 4% growth for institutional buildings.”

The Internet address of the full article:

And, the Internet address at which you can find the individual and consensus forecasts:

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Joel’s comment:

For those who are predicting a continuing problematic situation in the U.S. Construction economy the remainder of this year, but a recovery beginning next year (2011), all of us should know, by now:

a) there will, at some point, be a recovery,

b) but, as to when the recovery will begin to happen, that’s simply a SWAG on everyone’s part. I guess one could say that everyone who guesses has a least a 50-50 chance of being right. Almost the same odds as playing black or red at the roulette wheel in Vegas!

Monday, August 2, 2010

PBSJ Corp acquired by WS Atkins

Well, there we go!

In a post I did on July 25th about Stantec's acquisition of Wilson Miller, I said this .......

....." But, one also has to wonder if this deal (and deals like this one that have previously happened with Florida-based engineering firms) will influence some of Florida's other "independent" engineering firms (I am speaking about those who are based in Florida) to consider selling to, or merging with, very large firms like Stantec. Will PBSJ go that route, eventually? Will RS&H and King Engineering go that route, eventually?" ...........

Today, WS Atkins, the largest engineering design consultancy firm in the U.K., announced the acquisition of PBSJ Corp, the largest Florida-based engineering firm.

Congratulations to all of the PBSJ Corp shareholder-employees on PBSJ Corp's deal with Atkins.