Onlineprinters eyes next growth stage

Darryl Danielli
Friday, September 16, 2016

Onlineprinters is targeting its next growth spurt, with the UK poised to play a significant role, following a change in the German-headquartered online trade and B2B printer’s ownership and management structures.

Last month private equity firm TA Associates Management completed the sale of its majority stake in the business to Bregal Unternehmerkapital, the Munich-based private equity arm of family owned Cofra Holding, which owns a raft of investment funds as well as clothing retailer C&A.

Following the deal, Onlineprinters founder Walter Meyer will step down as managing director to take on a role in the firm’s newly created advisory board. He retains a stake in the business. Meanwhile, chief executive Michael Fries has expanded his operational remit as a result. 

According to Fries, TA had achieved its three-year objectives from its investment in Onlineprinters, which has achieved double-digital growth every year, and the firm had got to the stage when it was looking to refocus its growth efforts and began to review its funding options.

“We talked to a very select number of private equity houses and the owners recognised that Bregal was a very good fit,” said Fries.

Onlineprinters is Bregal’s first foray into print.

“It has a diverse portfolio, but many have something to do with online and process optimisation, they can help because they know a lot about marketing, process optimisation and internationalisation – so they are a good partner with a great network,” said Fries.

“They’re are also a very entrepreneurial company, they are not just about talking finance, they want to help us develop the company further and make it grow even faster.

“We’re very strong in Germany, and strong in a lot of other markets, but the German market is the most developed in terms of online printing, so we see even more potential outside of Germany.”

Organic growth will be the key focus of the business, although Fries said M&A activity was also a possibility – it is also considering partnerships in certain countries that might benefit from localised production. It’s also looking to further expand its 1,400-strong product range.

In terms of geographic growth, the 600-staff business has identified the UK as a key opportunity.

“I think the UK is a very attractive market; we’re already very strong here, growing almost 50% year-on-year. I think the structure here is very different to other countries, so the question is will that structure move in a different direction or will it be one that fully embraces online printing?

“In almost all other industries, the UK is leading the way in e-commerce, but looking at online printing penetration it’s not the same story – so I expect to see significant growth.”
Fries added that he did not view Brexit as a concern for UK growth.

“It’s an attractive economy with attractive opportunities, I don’t see Brexit changing that.”
Onlineprinters was founded as commercial printer in 1984 by Meyer, entering the e-commerce market in 2004.

Today it has 15 localised webshops, selling to 500,000 customers across 30 European countries, with its Neustadt an der Aisch production hub in Bavaria processing around 4,000 orders per day.

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