Flint sells Xsys pre-press business

Jo Francis
Thursday, September 9, 2021

Flint Group has confirmed that its Xsys pre-press wing is being sold, with Steve Dryden stepping up to become CEO of Flint as a result.

Xsys products are used in a wide variety of markets
Xsys products are used in a wide variety of markets

There had been speculation for a while that Flint owners Goldman Sachs and Koch Equity Development could divest all or part of the business. 

This heightened after Flint set up Xsys, a new division for its pre-press, flexo and letterpress operations at the beginning of this year. 

Yesterday evening (8 September) Flint announced that Xsys was being sold to private equity firm Lone Star Funds.

The Xsys business has sales of around €300m (£257m) and 600 employees. Its tag line is ‘Print solid. Stay flexible’.

The deal is subject to the usual completion terms, but once finalised Antoine Fady, who was CEO of Flint Group, will become CEO of the Xsys business, with Xsys president Dagmar Schmidt becoming COO. 

The terms of the deal were not disclosed. 

Flint said the sale would enable it to further invest in its “market-leading” packaging inks and the Xeikon digital printing business. The sale will also strengthen the group’s balance sheet.

Flint had sales of €1.7bn (£1.46bn) last year and employed around 6,200 people worldwide. 

Dryden, who was COO at Flint, becomes its CEO. He joined the business eight years ago as CFO from DS Smith where he was group finance director. He is well-known to large print groups and web offset printers as CEO of Flint's commercial, publication and sheetfed inks business. 

He said the separation would enhance the strategic and operational focus at both businesses.

“Flint Group becomes positioned to further invest in the structurally growing segments of paper and board, flexible packaging and labels, serviced with our conventional and digital printing consumables,” Dryden said.  

“This successful strategy – centred around product and service innovation – enables Flint to grow with customers that value our colour proposition by helping them to standardise and reduce their costs.”

Dryden: separation will enhance strategic and operational focus for both businesses

Fady described the carve-out as “the next logical step for Flint Group and Xsys”.

“It will further enable the Xsys business to advance as a standalone, best in class, full solutions provider to the flexographic and letterpress pre-press industries, with tailor-made solutions developed for each market segment and customer type.”

“We look forward to working with Lone Star, whose experience and track record will be of great benefit as we move Xsys forward in this next phase.”

Reuters had previously noted that private equity buyers were “falling out of love” with plastic packaging businesses due to associated ESG (environmental, social and governance) issues around the use of plastics, with the sale of Xsys seen as significant due to its products being used to print onto plastic – as well as paper – packaging. 

However, one industry expert noted: “It’s interesting that Flint is flogging off its plate operations, especially as flexo packaging isn't going digital at anything like the same rate as the general litho sectors are switching to digital presses.”

Donald Quintin, president of Lone Star Opportunity Funds, commented: “We recognise not only the resilience of the Xsys business and the diversity of its offerings, but its growth prospects as well. We appreciate the value that Xsys provides its many customers, and have great confidence in the management team’s commitment to realising Xsys potential in the years ahead.”

Xsys products, including the Nyloflex and Nyloprint range of flexo and letterpress plate products, are used in a wide variety of markets including flexible packaging, corrugated pre- and post-print, aseptic and fresh packaging, tags and labels, security printing, moulding and stamping, and pad printing. 

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