LEBANON’S PRINTING INDUSTRY: A BOOMING SECTOR
The printing industry* in Lebanon is mostly dominated by small and medium-sized companies, with 40% of firms employing between 10 to 34 workers.
There are around 182 companies in the sector employing 3,693 workers or 5.2% of the total industrial labor force. The industry turnover is estimated at around 150 million USD annually.
Printing activities in Lebanon are mostly geared towards commercial (e.g., newspapers, books, leaflets, etc..) and industrial purposes (such as packaging). There are 10 large players that dominate the market and cater to the local and international markets; two of which specialize in packaging.
Lebanon is a net exporter of printed matters. Export partners are Syria and Iraq, but also GCC and North African countries. Together, they account for more than 60% of total exports. New markets are being formed nonetheless in West Africa and Europe with key players already exporting to these destinations. On the other hand, Lebanon imports printed products mainly from France, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Lebanon was traditionally the printing hub in the Middle East. Up until the 1980’s books printed in Lebanon were ruling regional markets from North Africa to the Gulf. A highly considerable share of prints circulated in the Middle East region is still produced in Beirut, this owing to a set of competitive advantages that the country possesses mainly:
- Relative Cost Competitiveness: the labor cost for a qualified operator in Lebanon carries about a 40% advantage over an Eastern European location.
- Legal Framework: Lebanon enjoys greater legal assurances for the freedom of expression compared to its regional peers making printing in Lebanon a good proposition for publishers in surrounding countries.
- Strategic Location: Lebanon’s location allows for strong export potential – particularly in the GCC, European and African markets
- Well Established Industry: Owing to the industry’s historical position as the printing hub in the region, local printing presses have organically grown expertise and regional presence over time and remain well positioned in the region with branch offices in the GCC, West and North Africa.
MARKET TRENDS & OPPORTUNITIES
Three major trends define and shape the prospects of the local printing industry:
- The relocation of outsourcing destinations: With the advance in technology, shorter transportation distances and better cultural proximity, the Middle East is slowly gaining ground against East Asia in terms of attracting print jobs from Europe. Christoph Fischer, the MAN Roland delegate for the MENA backs this assumption based on company sales figures, indicating that “the Middle East is gradually turning into the outsourcing destination for Europe”.
- Growing regional market: Total printing revenues in the region are expected to grow to US$ 7 billion by 2015. This growing market and particularly in the Gulf, is generating new opportunities for Lebanese printing firms, notably in specialized and high-added value products.
- Digitization of the industry: The worldwide printing industry is faced with structural changes stemming from the increasing use of digital printing and a resulting drop in the amount of printing. Companies are therefore starting to embrace new technologies that would optimize cost and increase the revenue base.
As such the following opportunities can be singled out:
- High-End Printing : With future regional printing demands, the focus will remain on quality, service and innovation. Based on its competitive advantages listed above, Lebanon is able to compete through the production of high end printing products. “the future of the printing industry in Lebanon will be dependent upon its ability to deliver high end products”. Mr. Hicham Itani, CEO of Inkript.
- Packaging Print: Today only two players amongst the top 10 players in the industry are involved in packaging print. This sector includes a promising potential especially given a prominent agro food industry which serves as a prime client for packaging industries.
- Security Printing: it deals with the printing of items such as ballot papers, banknotes, passports, lottery tickets, identity cards etc. Currently there are few security printing producers in the region. However, the main competition comes from Europe, Australia, UK, Turkey and the US. The low competition in this sector represents a good opportunity for Lebanese firms to grow, and get introduced in the regional market.
* Classified as Printed Matter and Recorded Media in the ISIC classification. This category has many subdivisions mainly the printing and publishing of books, printing and publishing of newspapers, etc..
MEETING WITH STAKEHOLDERS IN THE BPO INDUSTRY
We have invited companies engaged in Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) activities along with representatives from the Ministry of Telecommunications for a round-table discussion aimed at looking into ways to support the industry in Lebanon, including the outsourcing of shared services, call center activities and IT services. The meeting covered IDAL’s participation at the International Outsourcing Forum (IOF) which is taking place this year in Reims, France on October the 2nd and defined a roadmap for promoting the business process outsourcing industry in Lebanon.
AGRO INVEST 2013
IDAL sponsored the Agro Invest 2013, a conference on“promoting innovative investments in the Agro-food industry” that was organised by the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture in Saida and South of Lebanon and the South Business Innovation Center (SouthBIC). The conference brought together Agro-industrialists and key actors of this value chain from across the country to discuss important issues related to the sector trends and development in Lebanon and the innovation in the Agro- Industry. Conference speakers included representatives from concerned institutions such as IDAL, BDL, Qualeb, Kafalat in addition to other experts from international organizations. On the margins of the conference an exhibition was inaugurated at the Business Exhibitions Center in Saida under the patronage of the European Union Ambassador Angelina Eichhorst.
IDAL PARTICIPATED AT THE EUROMED MIGRATION III
We have participated at the Euromed Migration III peer-to-peer meeting on 24-25 September in Slovenia to discuss the potential of migrants in the region’s respective countries and to look into ways to better coordinate and facilitate a concerted and consolidated approach between the public sector and the migrant entrepreneur communities. Chairman of IDAL, Mr. Nabil Itani, emphasized during hispresentation
on the local successes between the government and the private sector and on the pioneering role of Lebanese emigrants to the national economy.
VISIT OF AMBASSADOR OF MEXICO TO LEBANON
IDAL received a courtesy visit from the Ambassador of Mexico to Lebanon, Mr. Jaime Garcia Amaral.
The visit aimed at enhancing business relationships between both countries, especially that Mexico holds a large Lebanese diaspora that could act as a liaison in establishing businesses and forging partnerships. The main issue discussed involved the various obstacles to export to Mexico from Lebanon and ways to facilitate such transactions, in addition to organizing mutual investment and trade missions.
IDAL TOURED PACKAGING HOUSES IN THE BEKAA
Chairman of IDAL has toured the packaging houses in the Bekaa that fall under the Agri Plus Program, the program that is managed by IDAL for agriculture export development. The tours come as part of a routine quarterly visit to oversee the developments and improvements of the packing houses and to ensure their compliance with the criteria and standards set forth by the program. All packing houses visited have voiced their readiness to develop their business and work towards quality certifications for production and packaging.