KBA looks forward to specialist future

On the eve of celebrations to mark its 200th anniversary, KBA has reiterated its commitment to “profitable growth” by focusing on special press applications.

The Würzburg-headquartered firm is the world’s oldest press manufacturer. Although Friedrich Koenig and Andreas Bauer came up with a steam driven press to print The Times in London in 1814, the year 1817 marked the foundation of the world’s first printing press factory, on the site of an old monastery in Oberzell.

“We are well positioned for the future,” said chairman Claus Bolza-Schünemann. “The future needs an origin. I think we have proven that 200 years is an origin, and therefore there must be a future.”

Chief financial officer Mathias Dähn said: “Our focus is on profitable growth. We have said goodbye to cross-subsidies and have zero tolerance on loss-making. This is a very important message internally, and also to investors and the banks.”

The €1.167bn (£1bn) turnover group has set an organic growth target of 4% for 2017 through to 2021, with an EBIT margin of between 4-9% at a group level. It aims to make a €70m gain through optimising its security printing business and service operations, and by integrating its production network and strategic purchasing.

Quizzed about the disparity in KBA’s share price (€65.59), compared with arch-rival Heidelberg’s (€3.27), Dähn said: “What we try to do is make a product for 80 and sell it for 100. Heidelberg sometimes seems to be doing it the other way around. Even for analysts it becomes difficult to understand what the profit of Heidelberg is, so that [the share price] is the result.”

KBA claims an 80% market share in banknote printing, and also in metal decorating and glass container printing. It has a 63% share in large-format offset and packaging printing. In the declining area of web offset and newspaper printing it has a 30% share.

It also has a number of digital press developments underway, including partnerships with HP for corrugated pre-print, and with Xerox on a B1 sheetfed packaging press, the VariJet 106. It has also sold its first MetalDecoJet digital system for printing onto metal cans, and now has five installations of its RotaJet inkjet web press, at book and décor printers.

However, Bolza-Schünemman said the vast majority of growth would still be through analogue presses: “For years to come we will live in both worlds."

He said the 4,500sph VariJet, which was announced at Drupa last year, was three-to-six months away from being finalised. 

“We still have some work to do. We all know that folding cartons is extremely demanding, they don’t want to see any glitches. The quality today is not good enough and we want to avoid showing something that is not ready to be sold.”

In a reference to Landa’s protracted roll-out, he added: “It will take another three-to-six months, please be patient. It took others six-to-seven years, and we don’t want to copy that. We have to meet the quality gateway otherwise it makes no sense.”

KBA will officially unveil its new look at a VIP event in Würzburg tonight.

Read PrintWeek’s in-depth article on the history of KBA.