After two years of eye-bulging, wallet-emptying consolidations sweeping through the commercial printing industry, it is not all that surprising to hear forecasts that the consolidation craze has peaked and is now on the downturn. It may even be true (reserve judgment after reading the related article on page 88).

The consolidation front was, in fact, comparatively quiet in 2000, and it shared the news pages with bigger developments. Commercial printing stocks didn’t fare so well in 2000, which explains the lack of consolidation to a degree. A number of public companies bought back large chunks of their stock in the face of falling prices. But, for some, it was more than a little heartburn from integration indigestion. One major consolidator, Master Graphics, was delisted from the Nasdaq exchange, then later filed for Chapter 11 reorganizational bankruptcy.

Are the milk and honey days of consolidation in the past? Harris DeWese, chairman of Compass Capital Partners, an investment banking and valuation services provider to the printing industry, sees the landscape changing.

“The year 2001 will be another lean, albeit interesting, year in printing industry M&A activity,” DeWese contends. “Values will continue to be down and there will be very few active buyers. We expect that deals in 2001 will be more strategic and creative. We also expect some buyers to emerge from among the private equity firms.”

It seems no one was exempt from Wall Street’s mood swings. Internet stocks, once the sexiest line in NYC not created by Donna Karan, also felt the backlash. But that didn’t stop the dotcoms from popping up, creating a whole new buying/selling/brokering platform, and a new battlefield for profit margins.

Nearly half a million visitors made the pilgrimage to Dusseldorf, Germany, for DRUPA 2000 in May. When September rolled around, about 47,000 customers wandered into Chicago for Graph Expo and Converting Expo 2000 and wore out their check books.

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