Fascinating acquisitions

Acquisitions are very much front of mind at the moment. Two significant deals were announced this week, with EFI’s purchase of UK MIS developer Technique and Konica Minolta’s swoop for print manager Charterhouse PM.

03 Dec 2012 | By www.proprint.com.au

And still we await news from Goodhead Group where a change of ownership appears inevitable.

Then, yesterday afternoon, I nearly choked on my cuppa when news broke of HP’s extraordinary accusations about, and request for investigation into, the financial results of Autonomy before its $12bn purchase of the company last year.

No doubt Autonomy’s then-directors and auditors, and the HP advisors who were handsomely rewarded for the sizeable due diligence project, will have had tea on the screen as well.

The numbers in HP’s case are enormous, it is writing off $5bn as a result, but no matter what size of business an acquisition can have a massive effect – be it positive or negative.

Get it right, and all the stakeholders can be rolling in gold and eyeing up that villa in Barbados. Get it wrong and it’s more likely to be a static caravan in Skegness.

A while back I was talking to the boss of a very acquisitive – and consistently profitable – print industry business, and I asked him what the secrets of success were from his point-of-view. He said he tended to avoid the companies being actively marketed to him and his board, and instead his team sought out firms that were of specific interest and then approached them.

We’ve had some pretty peppy deals in the past here on planet print – think of Communisis’ £42m spend on Centurion a decade ago, and RR Donnelley’s near $1bn (£520m at the time) buoyout of Astron – itself a company that had successfully “spun the coin” again and again through a series of takeovers.

And boy did the Astron bosses sell up at the right time. Three years later RRD posted a $436m writedown on its investment.

Meanwhile, St Ives is in the process of re-inventing itself fuelled by a +£60m spend on marketing services business. The results are tbc.

M&A – always fascinating. Not always favourable.

Words: Jo Francis, deputy editor, PrintWeek UK