IfraExpo: New sales are scarce, but German giants still fight for supremacy

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Press conferences for the two German giants of newspaper press manufacture used to be a tradition of the annual WAN-Ifra World Publishing Expo.

But that was one more thing that has changed with this year's event.

Having held a major event last month to celebrate its bicentenary, KBA - newly restyled as 'Koenig & Bauer' - settled for individual briefings and a press release summarising recent developments, while arch-rival manroland web kindly upgraded what was to have been a German-only press event to allow GXpress to share their latest news.

Not that the two have stopped the (also traditional) bickering about sales and market leadership.

While manroland presented charts showing its share of the market for new web-offset presses in 2017 so far at 76 per cent - more than treble that for 2013 -Koenig & Bauer marketing director Klaus Schmidt, who retires at the end of next week, would argue that the statistics like funny stories, are a matter of the way you tell them. "If you were to split out newspaper presses, or consider sales value, a different outcome might appear," he told GXpress later.

manroland chief executive Alexander Wassermann said 2016 sales of 242.2 million Euros compared to 256.7 million Euros three years ago, but EBIT had almost doubled at 6.5 million compared to 3.3 million in 2013.

He described parent the Possehl Group as "the best" owner, supporting manroland's plans for diversification and development, which include expansion of its service offering and the introduction of a new hybrid packaging press.

Koenig & Bauer had presentations on its stand to show how the focus had changed from new presses to projects to maintain and modernize existing presses.

Not that it's not good to have a new press or two to talk about: A new Commander CL commissioned last month at Druck und Presshaus Naumann near Frankfurt, and the imminent start-up of a waterless Cortina at La Réunion in the Indian Ocean fitted the bill for K&B, with a Cortina extension for Coldset Printing Partners due soon.

Having announced the order earlier this year, manroland had Styria board member Kurt Kribitz in attendance at its press conference to talk about a project which includes a new triple-wide Colorman in Graz, Austria, and upgrades to two older Colorman presses in St Veit.

With a mix of small daily and weekly titles to produce, the differing levels of investment were a factor of press utilization, he said, and will allow capacity to be consolidated.

"Print continues to be important, and this investment is a statement," he says.

• manroland has a new chief operating officer in Franz Kriechbaum, a former aerospace engineer who joined the company in May, and has been promoted following the departure of Dieter Betzmeier.

Pictured: Good as his name, manroland's Alexander Wassermann (left) fills Kurt Kribitz' glass, as Franz Kriechbaum (centre) introduces himself

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