Punch International N.V. - Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on Punch International N.V.

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Company Perspectives:

Our goal is to provide our customers with total solutions while meeting their requirements for quality, cost and service. This approach enables Punch to continuously increase the added value for all its stakeholders: including partners, shareholders, clients, suppliers, employees and society. Punch operates as a subcontractor with tailor-made services for Television, Consumer Electronics and Specialized Communication Technology industries. Punch also delivers complete systems and services to end-users in the Graphics Industry.

History of Punch International N.V.

Punch International N.V. is a diversified manufacturing company with historic roots in manufacturing services, specifically the manufacture of plastic and metal components and the production of component assemblies for third-parties, such as Philips and Sony. Manufacturing Services remains the Belgian company's primary activity, accounting for nearly 60 percent of its turnover. Since the early 2000s, Punch has made an effort to diversify its operations and especially to aim the company more toward the production of end products and complete systems. As such, Punch has made a number of strategic acquisitions, such as the purchases of graphics systems makers Xeikon and Strobbe Graphics in 2002 and of Advantra International in 2001 and Acunia in 2004. These acquisitions have enabled Punch to extend into two new divisions, Graphics Solutions and Wireless Applications. Graphic Solutions, based around Xeikon and Strobbe, add digital color presses for the commercial and industrial printing industry, as well as computer-to-plate machinery for pre-press systems. Under Wireless Applications, the company is preparing wireless telemetry and messaging applications through Advantra and fleet management systems through Acunia. Punch is an international business, with manufacturing capacity in Belgium, Slovakia, Mexico, Hong Kong, and mainland China, as well as sales and distribution operations in a number of markets, including Germany, France, the Netherlands, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The company has been listed on the Euronext Brussels Stock Exchange since 1999. In 2003, Punch International posted revenues of nearly EUR 176 million ($191 million).

From Supplying Parts to Systems Solutions in the 1980s

Punch International started out as a small supplier of semi-finished metal components to the local manufacturing community in Ghent, Belgium. Originally known as Impriver, the company was taken over by new management led by Freddy Gysel and Jean Braem in 1982 and renamed as New Impriver BV. Over the following years, the company began developing beyond its local market. By 1988, it became determined to relaunch itself as a components supplier for the international market. Helping to steer the company's new strategy was Guido Dumarey, who later became company CEO and chairman.

In 1988, the company began constructing a new factory for the manufacture of machined punch metals in Evergem, also in Belgium. Production at the new facility began in 1989 under the name of Punch Products NV. The name Punch quickly became adopted as the designation for the overall group, which expanded again in 1991 with the creation of a new research and development division, Punch Engineering, based in Haasrode. The new operation enabled the company to extend its presence in the growing consumer electronics field.

That market was then undergoing its own transformation. Manufacturers were increasingly turning to third-party suppliers of components and subsystems and even entire assemblies in an effort to achieve greater profitability. Punch became an early beneficiary of this trend, and by the early 1990s the company had already established a strong relationship with consumer electronics giant Philips. In 1991, the two companies strengthened their relationship when Punch agreed to establish Punch Electronique in Dreux, France, in order to produce PCB assemblies for Philips.

Soon after, Punch attracted another of the world's major consumer electronics groups. In 1993, the company founded a new subsidiary, Punch Precision in Brigdend in the United Kingdom. That facility was established in order to produce display components for Sony. The two companies deepened their relationship that same year as Punch began building a second production plant in order to produce monitors and cathode-ray tubes for Sony televisions.

Punch's work for Philips brought it into new territory in 1994. In that year, the company set up a new plant in Travna, the Slovak Republic, in order to produce metal components for Philips. Slovakia became the company's most important production site next to its base in Belgium.

By the second half of the 1990s, Punch had grown into a specialist provider of components and assemblies for the electronics industries. By 1996, the company's sales had topped the equivalent of EUR 40 million. The consumer electronics market accounted for more than half of that figure.

Diversifying for a New Century

Punch continued to respond to the needs of the electronics industry into the late 1990s. In 1998, for example, the company agreed to acquire United Electronics, based in Namestovo, Slovakia, a move that enabled the company to begin production components for a new customer, Panasonic. That year, also, Punch followed Philips into Hungary, launching a new production subsidiary, Punch Manufacturing KFT, in Székésfehervar.

As it turned toward the new century, Punch began to seek new areas of growth. The company at first stayed close to its core manufacturing services, adding injection molding capacity through its purchases of Stevens NV, an injection molding specialist, in April 1999. Soon after, the company began construction of a new plant in Evergem, combining its Punch Products and Stevens operations into a single unit. The company continued to build up its plastics operations, buying up Bruges-based Trelleborg NV in June of that year. Trelleborg was then renamed as Punch Plastics.

Fueling the company's new expansion drive was its public offering, in March 1999, and a listing on the Brussels Stock Exchange's main board as Punch International N.V. In addition to its own expansion moves, Punch also began looking for new partnerships. Among the first of these was formed in November 1999 when the company teamed up with Buro- und Datentechnik GmbH, based in Germany, to produce paper-handling products and systems. The partnership then launched construction of a new plant in Guadelajara, Mexico, in order to supply the American markets.

Before the end of that year, Punch had also added a partnership in Korea, forming the joint venture Punch Donghwa Corporation for the purchase and distribution of components in Korea and elsewhere in the Asian region. Then, in January 2000, the company reached an agreement with Philips Display Components in which Punch agreed to begin producing rimbands for Philips' North American display operations. The company opened its U.S. production plant in July of that year in Lima, Ohio.

By then, Punch had made a significant step in a new strategic direction, that of transforming itself from a components supplier to a producer of end products and systems. In January 2000, the company acquired Strobbe Graphics, which supplied computer-to-plate pre-press systems for Agfa-Gaveart. Strobbe had been founded in 1961 by Dirk Strobbe, who came from a family with a long history in the printing industry. Strobbe had concentrated on photomechanical film systems in the 1960s and became an early adopter of new digital technologies, releasing its first computer-based systems in 1975.

Punch moved Strobbe into new and larger production facilities in Ypres, Belgium, in December 2000. By then, the company had began integrating a new addition to its array of complete end products with the takeover of Dufour Automation, based in Roubaix, France, in a 50-50 joint venture with that company's management. The Dufour purchase enabled Punch to extend into the market for payment terminals and other machinery and equipment for the industrial automation market. That venture proved short-lived, however. Unable to achieve profitability, in part because of the difficulties in France's industrial and technological sectors in the early 2000s, Punch shut down its Dufour operations in 2002.

Punch found more promising prospects elsewhere. The company continued to build up its manufacturing base in Slovakia, launching development of its own 25,000-square-meter industrial campus in Namestovo at the end of 2000. In 2001, the company moved into mainland China, launching a joint-venture manufacturing operation in Jiin Hui.

Punch also took on a new products category in 2001 with the acquisition of Avantra International, which specialized in wireless two-way data communication devices. That company had previously been separately founded and operated by Guido Dumarey.

Punch celebrated the opening of its Namestovo campus at the beginning of 2002. In April of that year, the company extended its range of operations again with that acquisition of Xeikon NV. Belgium-based Xeikon had been a leading global maker of digital color production systems but had slumped into bankruptcy amid the general tech industry crash at the beginning of the 2000s. Punch's acquisition of Xeikon included the company's Belgian operations as well as its U.S. and Japanese sales and service subsidiaries. Punch immediately set out to revive Xeikon, relaunching its sales and service operations at new quarters in Lier.

Punch bought another company out of bankruptcy in May 2002, acquiring MCMS Belgium, based in Colfontaine. That company was then renamed as Punchtronics; soon after, the group's Avantra operations were moved to the Colfontaine site as well.

Punch's move into end products encouraged it to exit a number of its existing business. In 2002, the company sold off its 51 percent stake in Punch Mécanique in July 2002. In 2003, the company shut down its Bridgend plant in the United Kingdom as well. Following the transfer of Avantra to Colfontaine, Punch sold off Punchtronics to the Valorics group in 2003.

In the meantime, the company began building up its Xeikon business. The company focused specifically on boosting Xeikon's direct sales network. In 2003, Punch added new subsidiaries in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. By the end of that year, the company had added new Xeikon subsidiaries in Italy, the Netherlands, and Finland, with the last-named subsidiary covering the entire Scandinavian market.

As it continued to shift toward end products, Punch shut down its Punch Plastic plant in Bruges in October 2003. Early in 2004, the company announced its intention of forming a joint venture with OVP that was to take over Punch's plastics manufacturing operations. Punch retained 75 percent of the joint venture, however. As the company phased out its European manufacturing operations, it also reorganized its North American manufacturing presence, shutting down the Ohio plant and transferring its production activity in the region to a new site in Mexico. In the meantime, Punch strengthened its presence in the mainland China market with the creation of a second joint venture in that market, in Shenzhen.

By the end of 2003, Punch's sales neared EUR 176 million ($191 million), and a rising share of its turnover came from its Graphics Solutions division. The company also moved to boost its small Wireless division, purchasing Acunia International NV in 2004, adding that Belgian company's wireless fleet management systems. While Manufacturing Services continued to represent nearly 60 percent of the company's sales, Punch clearly pinned its future on its manufacturing extension, particularly on its Xeikon division. In February 2004, Xeikon launched its latest digital color press, the Xeikon 5000, which was expected to become a strong seller for the company. Meanwhile, Punch continued to oversee the extension of Xeikon's global direct sales and service network, launching a new subsidiary to cover Eastern Europe in May 2004. In little more than two decades, Punch International had transformed itself from a local components supplier to an international manufacturing group.

Principal Subsidiaries: Advantra International NV; New Impriver NV; Page Plus NV; Punch Plastics NV; Punch Products NV; Punch Property International NV; Punchtronics S.P.R.L.; Strobbe Graphics NV; Xeikon International NV; Strobbe Graphics Patrimonium BVBA; Punch Electronique SA (France); Xeikon Deutschland GmBH (German); Punch Management Ltd (Ireland); Advantra Nederland BV (The Netherlands); Xeikon Japan Ltd (Japan); Punch de Mexico S. De RL de CV (Mexico); PI Products SRO (Slovakia); Punch Assemblies Namestovo (Slovakia); Punch Campus Slovakia SRO (Slovakia); Punch Products Trnava SRO (Slovakia); Punch Property Orava SRO (Slovakia); PP Property Investments Ltd (United Kingdom); Punch Precision Ltd (United Kingdom); Xeikon GB (United Kingdom); Punch Donghwa Ltd (Hong Kong); Punch Components Inc (United States); Xeikon America Inc. (United States); Jiin Hung Industry Ltd (Hong Kong); Jiin Hui Industry Ltd (China); Shenzhen Sunrise Precision Electronic Co. Ltd. (China).

Principal Competitors: Agfa-Gevaert Ltd.; Scitex Vision Ltd.; Maschinenfabrik Wifag; Oce UK Ltd.; Scangraphic PrePress Technology GmbH; A.B. Dick Co.; Helvar Merca Oy Ab; Kodak Versamark Inc.; Esko-Graphics A/S.


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