Objectif Lune acquires PrintSoft

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Jul 1, 2011

After exactly six difficult years and investing over $30 million (Australian dollars) to push hybrid mail solutions, PrintSoft’s owner, Australia Post, has decided to end its involvement. On July 1st, 2011, it sold its software division PrintSoft, which it acquired on the same day in 2005, to the Canadian variable data software provider Objectif Lune.

By doing so, Australia Post shows the world that hybrid mail has not become its saviour in its battle against declining mail volumes. Hybrid mail, the concept of digitizing physical mail at its inception and printing it out as close to the recipient as possible (usually overseas), is in theory very interesting for organisations that operate in global supply chains. By actively helping its customers to save on distribution costs, Australia Post would capture at least some of the revenues that would have been otherwise lost if mail is sent completely electronically.

Nevertheless, the flaw in the concept is that it assumes that a significant reduction in physical distribution cost is enough motivation for companies to keep sending printed mail. Well…here’s the crux. It’s not. All evidence is pointing in the opposite direction: away from print altogether, steadily heading to electronic presentment with innovative services attached to it such as the variety of digital mailbox services that are ramping up.

In Australia Post’s defence, this wasn’t really clear six years ago, and diversifying the business brings on additional risks. You can’t blame them for trying, but what they failed to do was to provide strategic direction and position the business for growth. Where leading companies in the transactional VDP field showed double digit annual growth rates, even during the recession, PrintSoft could not capitalize and posted a 35% decline in revenues in 2009-2010. Although no financial details have been made available about the deal, we can assume Objectif Lune got PrintSoft for a bargain.

For PrintSoft, its employees and longstanding customers, Objectif Lune is a more natural fit as an owner than Australia Post. It understands the variable data printing market, has been part of it since 1993, and as a privately-owned, independent software vendor, it can define its own strategy.

With PReS, PrintSoft’s flagship product, Objectif Lune gains access to technology that allows it to start playing a bigger role in service bureaus and data centers. On the front-end side, PrintSoft brings correspondence system technology, while on the back-end it provides Objectif Lune with the much-needed AFP/IPDS capability. With PlanetPress’ strong orientation on PostScript, Objectif Lune now has, in theory, all components of a very complete variable data print portfolio. The challenge for them will be to turn this into an integrated product portfolio, perhaps in the vein of Customer Communications Management, and explain what benefits they will bring over competitors like Elixir, GMC, Sefas, and many more.

On the graphic arts side, PrintSoft’s Newleaf and Objectif Lune’s PrintShop Mail are quite complimentary. We can expect Objectif Lune to phase out Newleaf and bring those, mostly German, customers over to PrintShop Mail. Update (July 29th): Objectif Lune has said it will keep Newleaf for the foreseeable future because it has certain capabilities that PrintShop Mail lacks, such as AFP/IPDS output.

The PrintSoft acquisition is the next one in a market that has seen many acquisitions over the last decade. Most recent ones include Metavante by financial services provider Fidelity National Information Services in 2009 and StreamServe by OpenText in 2010. PrintSoft will now become part of Objectif Lune that is getting increasingly more scale by its sixth acquisition in eight years time.

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