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Jerry Lansky Exclusive: San Marco Imaging Sold; New Owner To Continue Marko Line

San Marco Imaging, S.p.A., the Italian company that manufactures the Marko line of minilab equipment, has been sold to a private investor who is planning to continue the operations of the firm's facilities in Italy and, for now, Switzerland . The new owner is San Marco Vision Srl.

Francesco Covre, a manufacturer and consultant in the electronics industry, will serve as CEO of the new firm which has been named San Marco Interactive. Two former executives of San Marco Imaging will continue as senior executives: Giancarlo Sam, who was the chief financial officer, and Maurizio Wermelinger, formerly manager of the Swiss operation. Their new titles were not made known.

A restructuring of San Marco had been in the works for some months and the deal was finally signed on December 14, 2006.

Amilcare Berti, the Italian industrialist who acquired the assets of bankrupt Gretag Imaging in 2003 will play no role in the new firm. He developed the Marko line of minilabs with the hope of competing favorably on a worldwide basis. The burden of a large overhead plus the ills of the predecessor Gretag brand and the reshaping of the market in the digital world proved to be too much to overcome.

It is not yet known how the new firm plans to market itself in an industry that is in decline and has such formidable players as Noritsu recently reporting a sales decline of 27% and an income drop of 62% for a six month period.

Giancarlo Sam said that about 50 people of the SMI staff have been laid off. A remaining core, of another 50, will operate the firm's two facilities. For the present, the Swiss facility will continue to manufacture the digital and printing components of the systems along with the MK-10 and Italy will produce all of the wet sections and handle the final assembly of the MK-4 and MK-6. He said that by the end of the year all manufacturing will be transferred to Italy .

Sam said that the new firm will definitely have booth space at PMA and that the Marko line will continue to be offered. It is expected that a dye-sub system, shown in prototype at PMA last year and at photokina, will be introduced. There is also speculation, unconfirmed, that the firm could be offering an inkjet solution. “The future is not with a wet system,” he said.

Sam indicated that during the restructuring, the manufacturing of equipment and parts continued without interruption. He said the company has had sales success in Eastern and Western Europe , Mexico , and the Middle East through subsidiary operations and distributors.

The U.S. , once the largest market for Gretag equipment through its single customer, Qualex, has been a dormant market for the firm. There are still a number in service at certain mass merchant locations but they are being phased out.

As for the future, Sam said, “The U.S. is certainly a target market for us, though it is not easy to penetrate.” He said distribution and marketing plans are currently being developed and will be announced at PMA.