The management buy-out (MBO) of Atlas Converting Equipment from Bobst Group of Switzerland during 2010 was concluded late on Monday 25 October and announced early the following morning on the Geneva Stock Exchange. This was a mere 24 hours before the opening of the strategically important K’2010 exhibition in Düsseldorf, Germany – the world’s most important event for the plastics industry – and vitally important for the successful launch of the new venture for Atlas and Titan slitter rewinders, which are widely used in this global market sector.

The two companies agreed to share the already planned exhibition space at K’2010, which enabled Atlas and Titan to display a new corporate identity for the first time alongside its former parent company. This, however, was a perfect reflection of the amicable approach of both companies throughout the negotiations and the transition period which followed the transaction.

“Our initial focus was to communicate the changes to our employees and our customers,” commented Alan Johnson, the managing director of the company. “The ‘K’ show was an ideal platform to meet with key customers ‘face-to-face’ and explain the structure and strategy for our business.”

“All our stakeholders have given very positive feedback and this was confirmed during the exhibition with sales contracts in excess of €5m being signed and many constructive discussions regarding future business,” Mr Johnson confirmed.

New owners

The four individuals involved in the MBO acquired 100% of the company, each with an equal share of the ownership. The acquisition included the UK business and assets in both North America and China. Three of the directors will continue in their former positions: Alan Johnson, managing director; Stan Braycotton, sales and marketing director; and Tom Walker, finance director. The fourth member of the MBO team is Stephen Darlington, the former managing director of Bobst Group (UK Holdings), who is chairman of the new Atlas Board. After the extraction phase from Bobst Group, which should be completed during the first half of 2011, Mr Darlington will continue on a part-time basis as a non-executive director. In all other respects, the company continues to be managed by its existing operational management team which has many years of experience in Atlas and Titan’s business.

Business strategy

“Our key focus is our customers and to complete the transition from Bobst Group in an efficient manner, without affecting our service to customers in the marketplace,” Mr Johnson further explained. “This process is well under way and we expect it to be completed within the first six months of 2011, by which time our sales and service facilities in North America and China will be fully operational.”

“It is our intention to continue investment within the organization, particularly in technology and service. An example of this is a significant investment in a new 3D CAD engineering design system which will be installed in the coming months.”

“Our business will be structured in order to ensure that we strengthen our position as the market leader in technology, offering a range of products and service geared towards our customers’ requirements and offering differentiation within the marketplace,” he confirmed.

Atlas has a global installed base of approximately 3,500 primary and secondary slitter rewinders, installed in over 70 different countries. This includes approximately 2,500 Titan and more than 1,000 Atlas machines. “The company has been in operation since 1976 and many of our customers have been working with us for a long time. It is our intention to continue to support these customers for the long-term future,” Mr Johnson added.

Worldwide sales and service network

Atlas and Titan already have an established sales and service network in place and have retained sales and service centres in the US, South East Asia and China, which have been mainly dedicated to the Atlas and Titan product range for many years. These three centres together with the UK base provide good global coverage. However, the company intends to strengthen its UK sales base and also increase its presence in other parts of the world by adding both service and sales support in certain regions enabling it to widen its presence in the market through both its own dedicated personnel and through a broadening of its agency network.

A busy year in prospect

“Since the MBO we have had a very good order intake,” commented Stan Braycotton, sales and marketing director for the company. “Our order book for primary slitters in 2011 is almost full and we have several machines in our backlog for delivery in 2012,” he added. “One recent order was for nine machines from South America, which included three Atlas primary BOPP film slitters at 8.3m wide and six secondary slitters, comprising three Atlas CW800 machines at 2,850mm wide and three Titan SR8 duplex cantilever slitters at 2,050mm wide,” he confirmed.

Atlas and Titan will participate at several important trade exhibitions this year, which started as early as January with ArabPlast in Dubai, UAE, and Interplastica in Moscow, Russia. Both events were very busy with sales enquiries and also provided opportunities for building new representation with potential partners in two important regions.

The new ICE USA exhibition in Orlando, Florida, in April will also be another important event for the company to build on its many successes in the North American converting market. A Titan ER610 compact slitter will be demonstrated at this event.

Chinaplas is a regular fixture for Atlas and the 2011 event will take place in Guangzhou, southern China in May. China has been a successful market for Atlas film slitters over the last three decades and the company now has more than 200 machines installed in Greater China, most of which are primary film slitters at more than 8m wide.

With other conferences and seminars lined up during the rest of the year, participation at the ICE Europe exhibition in Munich, Germany, in November will round off a busy promotional campaign for the company this year. A new internet website is currently under construction and will go live during Q1, with other new multimedia and sales support materials set to come on stream later in the year.