PacPrint optimism reinforced by a Norman conquest

After an uncertain start on Tuesday, Australia’s PacPrint09 printing trade show got on song today with sales announcements, the optimistic comments of a few overseas principals … and a huge boost from the economic assessments of Professor Neville Norman, wites Peter Coleman.

At press conferences at the start of the day, Agfa Graphics Oceania managing director Frederic Dehing spruiked the company’s inkjet innovation – including an LED-based technology which may migrate to newspaper markets – and boasted an 82 per cent share of chemical-free plate sales, while Kodak’s worldwide head of marketing for digital print solutions Kevin Joyce rated Australia one of the world’s top markets for digital newspaper printing with Japan, China and Europe.

Kodak had its transpromo-orientated VL2000 inkjet web at the show, but hadn’t been able to bring the Stream Printhead shown at China Print last week down to Melbourne. Traditional rival Agfa – with which it still spars for CTP sales – focussed on industrial inkjet developments, and had the sale of a new Advantage N platesetter to a New Zealand newspaper to talk about.

Elsewhere things had been relatively quite, especially on the afternoon of the first day, although a visit to the show by PMP chief executive Richard Allely, supposedly the first by a head of the printing giant, had been greatly heralded. Exhibitors contented themselves with talk that it was ‘quality’ rather than the quantity of show visitors that counted. Organisers reported 2503 visitors on the first day.

But it was Norman’s assertion – during the first of three forums – that Budget estimates had been wildly pessimistic and that there would be a turn in the economy before the year end, that the industry really wanted to hear. He forecast interest rate rises in the short term, and the prospect of a prime minister Gillard in the longer one, but urged industry visitors to “start preparing for growth”.

Norman said graphic arts businesses should look at products where margins have been trimmed and consider whether they will recover or should be discontinued, but basically his optimistic message was a print show marketer’s dream.

Panellists from three commercial print groups were happy to concur, and it was left for Linda Tenenbaum, managing director of Sydney contract newspaper printer MPD, to provide a sole dissident voice from the audience. Unable to share Norman’s optimism, she criticised justification which was “all very Australian” and referred the professor to global forecasts which were still being revised downwards.

Was she right, or had Tenenbaum been reading too much UK gloom and doom from the ‘Financial Times’, which her company prints? Certainly Neville Norman was having none of it, accusing her of not having listened to what he’d said and asserting that he was “not owned by anyone”.

No-one had suggested that, although the address – promoted by exhibition organisers which include the graphic arts merchants’ association – smacked somewhat of the rosy property forecasts put out by state real estate institutes.

We shall, of course, hope that Norman is right, that MPD benefits from any purchases made under the influences of Kevin Rudd’s financial stimuli, that interest rates don’t rise too high while the growth opportunities are being achieved … and that PM Gillard doesn’t mess it all up for us when the 'show' is over.
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