Quebecor Officials Feed Acquisition Rumors
MONTREAL—Pierre Peladeau, the late founder of Quebecor Printing, dreamed that one day it would be the largest commercial printing company in North America.
At a news conference following its annual shareholders meeting recently, Quebecor Printing officials did nothing to squelch rampant industry rumors that it is preparing to make an acquisition large enough to make that dream a reality.
Charles Cavell, president and chief executive, told reporters the group is looking over "a buffet table of opportunities filled with things that we can do." It can do them because of new debt refinancing that gives it access to US$1 billion of new bank credit.
When directly asked if Quebecor could manage a $1 billion acquisition, Cavell replied: "Could we? Yes we could. Will we? Time will tell."
Quebecor reported annual sales of US$3.8 billion last year, making it North America's second-largest commercial printer after the $5 billion, Chicago-based R.R. Donnelley & Sons.
Cavell admitted Quebecor has been approached by other commercial printers offering to sell assets or operating units. Cavell did not discuss the specific offers, but dropped two names: Big Flower Press Holdings and World Color Press.
New York-based advertising and marketing group Big Flower announced recently it was exploring strategic alternatives, including an outright sale of the company. Greenwich, CT-based World Color revealed—as part of its latest earnings reports—it was looking to eliminate redundant printing capacity acquired during its latest acquisitions.
What sort of deal is Quebecor looking for? Pierre Karl Peladeau, who has resigned as COO of Quebecor Printing and assumed the position of president and CEO of Quebecor Printing's corporate parent, Quebecor Inc., seemed to set the tone.
"We don't need to fall in love with the deal. We need to be assured that it will be accretive to earnings per share," Peladeau declared.
The company reported that revenues for its first quarter increased to US$911 million compared to US$882 million for the same quarter in 1998.
Cavell told Quebecor stockholders that the company's performance this quarter "once again shows the wisdom of being a diversified, global printer. While our North American business felt the lingering effects of last year's U.S. restructuring, our European and South American businesses' operating income was up significantly. Our consolidated operating margin is up compared to this time last year, and we are on track with improved efficiencies to generate stronger earnings."
Meanwhile, Quebecor can already claim to be the largest printer in South America. It attained that distinction following the acquisition of the printing assets of Buenos Aires-based Editorial Perfil, the largest publisher in Argentina, for US$12.5 million.
Concurrent with the acquisition, the company has signed a 10-year printing contract for Perfil's magazines, valued at approximately US$400 million (including paper).
Perfil's printing assets include Argentina's only rotogravure printing plant.