Esko and Artwork Systems to Join Forces to Consolidate Packaging Strengths

Posted: October 19, 2009

Esko and the three principal shareholders of Artwork Systems have reached an agreement whereby Esko and Artwork Systems will combine their operations. The resulting new entity, with estimated 2007 revenues in excess of 180 million euros and a combined workforce of close to 1,000 professionals, consolidates the market leadership of both companies in packaging and printing preproduction products and services.

The strategic rationale for the transaction stems from a desire to better utilize each company's complementary strengths in the packaging and commercial printing market segments, complementary expert sales and support channels, and global customer bases. The physical integration will constitute moving the Artwork Systems personnel from their Ghent, Belgium, office into Esko's headquarters, which is only three miles away in Ghent.

"From a cultural perspective, we do not see too many challenges in integrating the business," says Carsten Knudsen, CEO of Esko. Guido Van der Schueren, Artwork Systems' chairman of the board, agrees, noting: "In more than 70% of Artwork Systems' customer base, there is no overlap."

On August 2nd, the three principal shareholders of Artwork Systems Group NV signed an agreement to sell their shares in Artwork Systems Group NV to Esko NV. The transaction enables the combination of the operations of Artwork Systems with those of Esko, a group controlled by the Danish private equity fund Axcel. In recent years, Esko has been growing the breadth of their business with new products and new partnerships to be an end-to-end solution provider for packaging and commercial printing processes.

Currently, Esko is the leading global system integrator to the packaging pre-production industry, and Artwork Systems is a leader in integrated or complete software solutions for pre-press. The target date for completion of the purchase of the shares is August 9, 2007. The three founders of Artwork Systems have expressed their support for the combination as they believe that joining forces with Esko is the right solution and provides the optimal basis for securing future growth and development of Artwork Systems.

"We are completing these product offerings to our customers," says Knudsen, "enabling them to take control of the entire process." Knudsen believes that both companies are on the same page in terms of the high value they place on customer service. There are no immediate plans for new products or services associated with the merger, aside from the streamlining of their business and sales processes.

Carsten Knudsen, who is currently the CEO of Esko-Graphics A/S, will become the CEO of the combined group. Guido Van der Schueren, who is currently the chairman of the board of directors of Artwork Systems Group NV, will become the Chief Commercial Officer leading the new group's integrated marketing and sales operations. Together with Carsten Knudsen, Guido Van der Schueren will form the Executive Management Board, and both will serve as Executive Directors on the Supervisory Board of Esko.