Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Exiting the "printing systems" business was a good decision by Staples' management team. But why did they buy that business in the first place?

In October this year, Staples, Inc. completed the sale of its “Staples Printing Systems Division” business (a European operation), which was acquired by CoBe Capital, a private equity firm based in New York City.  At the time of the sale, this “division” was generating sales in the neighborhood of 225 million Euros. 

This deal was reported by a number of different news outlets and by Staples and by CoBe Capital, so today’s blog-post isn’t new news.  Quite frankly, when I first saw the news about the deal, I was going to look at it, when I got around to doing that, but I simply forgot to do that. 

When I first saw the news about this deal, I “thought that” Staples Printing Systems Division offered printing services.  But, when I finally got around to looking back at this transaction, I realized that Staples Printing Systems Division did not offer printing services, but, rather, offered (and, under CoBe Capital’s ownership, still does offer) printing systems (and parts, and repairs, and software.)

Reportedly, Staples first purchased the company (which, today, is approximately 150 years old,) in 2010.  So, Staples owned this company for less than three years.  I don’t know how much Staples paid for this company, nor do I know how much Staples sold the company for.  Staples decided to sell this company because it was determined, by Staples’ management team, that the company did not fit with Staples’ “core business.”

THE BIG QUESTION:  What was Staples’ management team thinking when it decided to purchase this company in the first place???  Where was the fit???  Staples is, and has long been, the world’s largest retailer and distributor of office supplies, and Staples also offers copy/print services and sells technology products.  But, why in the world did Staples buy a company that sells printing systems?  Was this simply a good example of “a distraction” that happens when everyone is scrambling to figure out how to get through a recessionary period?  Having had some experience with acquisitions in the past, I know that it can be fun, if not exciting, to be on the hunt and to do deals.  But, at the end of the day, deals have to make sense.  This was one of those deals that made no sense at all.  Belatedly, I congratulate Staples’ management team for exiting the printing systems business.  Now, if Staples could only find a way “to really get involved” in the Print & Copy business.

If you care to read about the business that CoBe Capital acquired from Staples, here we go….

About the The Printing Systems Division (source: website of CoBe Capital)

Printing Systems Division provides a full suite of print services and software solutions, including equipment, maintenance and workflow applications, and is well known for representing Heidelberg, Kodak, 3M, HP, Adobe, Agfa and Canon.
Headquartered in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Printing Systems Division is a leading provider of printing solutions to commercial and industrial printers in Europe. With a tradition spanning over 150 years, the business has a strong presence in Western European markets, and physical presence in Benelux, Spain, Italy and Greece. Printing Systems Division is an official business partner for Heidelberg since 1927.
Each market is serviced through a local subsidiary:
Plantin and Grafimat (Belgium) BTI-Hellas (Greece) Macchingraf and Auxilia (Italy) Tetterode (The Netherlands) Hartmann (Spain)

Key Facts (about The Printing Systems Division) (source: website of CoBe Capital)

Leading provider of offset and digital machines, spare parts, consumables and services to the European graphics industry
Established in 1851, and owned by Staples since 2008
Presence in Western European markets (Benelux, Spain, Italy and Greece)
Each market is served through a local subsidiary, including subsidiaries based in Belgium (Plantin and Grafimat), Greece (BTI-Hellas), Italy (Macchingraf and Auxilia), the Netherlands (Tetterode) and Spain (Hartmann)
For over 80 years, the official distributor for Heidelberg, the #1 manufacturer of offset printers globally

Printing Systems Division has ~500 employees

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