Is It Just Me, or Is It Getting Warm Around Here?

You can feel it: spring finally has sprung after a winter that seemed endless. The snow and the ice are vanishing, and from what I’m seeing, so is the chilling effect that has slowed the pace of print industry mergers and acquisitions (M&As) over the last several years.

Calling the M&A market “hot to trot” would be an exaggeration at this point, but there are good reasons to think that fewer players are suffering from cold feet. Interest in transactions is picking up. Banks are more open to proposals for funding M&As. The gap between the prices sellers want and those that buyers will pay is closing. This is the thaw that dealmakers have been waiting for since the recession of 2008-2009 nearly froze M&A activity in place.

The warm feeling also is spreading to firms in the $5 million to $15 million range, a segment in which M&As sometimes can be challenging to initiate and structure. Although a company with revenues in this range might be profitable enough to justify a purchase price of $2.5 million to $5 million, its modest size may keep it from attracting the attention of national consolidators or private-equity investors from outside the industry. This certainly was the case while the worst of the recession was upon us.

Now, however, renewed confidence in print markets is encouraging these M&A opportunity-seekers to take a second look. Also seeing the green light are individuals and groups of individuals within the industry who have held onto their dreams of ownership but who, until now, have lacked the financial leverage to turn their dreams into viable deals.

I’m currently representing two buyers of this type—industry veterans with purchasing ambitions they’re prepared to fund with the cash they’ve saved after years of working for other people. That capital, together with eased restrictions on lending by the banks, is what gives printers like these a credible shot at acquiring companies of their own.

James A. Russell, partner at New Direction Partners, brings over 20 years of experience as a printing company executive having served as CEO of two family-owned graphic communication companies. During his tenure as owner and CEO of Arbor Press, a commercial printing company in Michigan, the company was an eight-time winner of the National Association for Printing Leadership’s (NAPL) prestigious Management Plus Awards program. Arbor Press was also recognized twice during his leadership as one of the 50 fastest growing printers in the country. Contact him at (610) 230-0635, ext. 703.
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