On day one Langley installed German operations veteran Alfred Rothlaender to head up the company and oversee a transition from the colossus the company once was to the lean organization that is characteristic of Langley businesses. Rothlaender stepped down at the end of 2012 with "no stone left unturned" to return to retirement, his final assignment for Langley complete. During this time the company has been transformed from the train-crash that hit the buffers on 25th November 2011 and emerged from the wreckage on 9th February 2012, into a company that can now break even producing just 100 presses per year.
Times are still tough in the printing industry, not least at the heavy metal end of the business. A collapse in demand for new machines post Lehmann Brothers, combined with the glacial pace of adjustment to overcapacity by the main players has seen press prices dwindle and while Manroland Sheetfed has addressed the issue of over-capacity head on, many observers doubt whether the others have the financial clout to grasp the nettle, even if they were inclined. Inevitably, according to the age old law, when capacity exceeds demand, price goes down. Prices for presses are no more now than five years ago but Langley doesn’t seem overly concerned: “Whilst our competitors are losing money at current price levels, we are not. Our company’s cost base is much lower, so I am content to sit it out.”
And sit it out he will. This is no asset stripper or venture capital scavenger. Langley is a long-term player and having no other shareholders to answer to, he can afford to wait. He has thrived on buying good businesses at the bottom of the cycle, re-aligning costs and waiting. Langley hasn't sold a business yet and doesn't plan to start now. In the meantime apprentice intake is being maintained at the press builder and spending continues on R&D.
In the past, the big three German producers were obsessed with market share. Langley isn’t playing that game. Judging by the CEO change at Heidelberg, neither are they any longer. Even KBA must be questioning the wisdom of trying to grab market share from the new Manroland Sheetfed. With Langley controlling things, Manroland has morphed into a strong niche player and “ROLAND” aficionados are not easily turned. “Why buy VW or Opel when for the same money you can have Mercedes S Class?” one said.
“Revenue for vanity, profit for sanity” goes the motto. That's certainly evident in Langley’s other divisions, two of which are also German. They sanely outperform the VDMA, the German machinery producer’s index, hands down. Not that the Langley group is exactly small; with Manroland revenues, this is getting on for a billion euro turnover business and it’s privately owned and it has substantial cash reserves and it has no debt.
A year on Manroland Sheetfed has a new shareholder, a new direction and is looking to the future with confidence. What a difference a year makes.