Xaar acquires FFEI

FFEI's Print Bar can be used for various applications including high-laydown varnish
FFEI's Print Bar can be used for various applications including high-laydown varnish

Xaar has acquired fellow UK inkjet specialist and customer FFEI in a £9m-plus deal.

The acquisition was announced this morning (12 July).

FFEI is based in Hemel Hempstead where it builds and integrates inkjet systems including its own Graphium inkjet label press and Print Bar, and the specialist Edge Band printer. 

It also works on high-tech development for other companies, with partners including Canon, Edale and Nilpeter. 

FFEI has worked on research and integration projects with Xaar since 2005, and uses Xaar printheads in its product developments. 

Outside of print FFEI also has a life sciences operation that builds medical slide scanners including patented high-resolution imaging and colour calibration know-how gleaned from print. 

The firm was the subject of a Printweek 'Best of British' feature in 2019, and won its fourth Queen's Award earlier this year. 

Xaar said the buy would strengthen its offering and would help to “provide a more comprehensive solution” for Xaar’s growing number of OEM and UDI (User Developer Integrator) customers.

FFEI CEO Andy Cook and CFO Julian Payne, who were the firm’s majority shareholders, will remain in post reporting to Xaar CEO John Mills. FFEI CTO Bob Wilson will take up a new senior role within Xaar’s printhead business. 

Overall, FFEI employs more than 60 people who remain with the business.

Mills said he had known many of the FFEI team personally for years, and was excited about the potential for the future: “Having restructured and stabilised our core printhead business, the acquisition of FFEI will accelerate our strategy and expand our customer offering in a range of markets. As well as providing a number of ready-made solutions, the acquisition will further enhance Xaar’s world class expertise.”

Cook, who led the 2006 MBO at FFEI when the business was acquired from Fujifilm, described Xaar as “a perfect fit”.

“We are delighted to become part of Xaar which represents a fantastic opportunity for the business to develop and grow. Xaar has been a long-term market leader with great technology and great people and is a perfect fit for the business,” he said. 

FFEI had sales of £9.9m in the year to 31 March 2021 with an operating margin of 9%. The business was originally established in 1947 as Crosfield Electronics by the late John Crosfield. 

Xaar said that in the year to 31 March 2021 FFEI had sales of £9.9 million with an operating margin of 9%. The initial cash consideration of £3.7m reflected FFEI’s free cash reserves and was paid on completion, with an additional £5.4m in deferred consideration to be paid out over the course of three years.

Mills has helmed a turnaround at Xaar, which posted sales of £48m in its most recent results.