The One-Two Punch Platform– November 2023 M&A Activity
SOURCE - The Target Report
Core Industrial Partners is back in the ring, re-entering the packaging market as a contender in the emerging roll-up of the folding carton business. In 2020, the Chicago-based private equity fund had acquired TCG Legacy, a commercial printing and packaging company in Raeigh, North Carolina. Intended as Core’s platform entry into the print and packaging business, TCG Legacy soon added-on MedLit Graphics, a packaging and labeling company based in Windsor, New Jersey. Rather than continue to build out the TCG Legacy platform, Core soon thereafter exited the investment, in 2022, selling the renamed MedLit Solutions to Resource Label Group.
At the opening bell of its return to folding carton business, Core Industrial announced its investment in Century Box, a folding carton manufacturer based in Methuen, Massachusetts. As is often the case with private equity deals, partnering with Core Industrial represents the first institutional equity investment for Century Box, a family-owned company. The second generation owners of Century Box stated that they had specifically sought out a financial partner with packaging industry experience and expertise to fund and expedite the company’s next phase of growth. Core Industrial fit the bill.
Century Box, which was founded in 1978, operates from two facilities that together are over 200,000 square feet dedicated to folding carton production. The company utilizes a large format offset press and two narrow web presses to produce folding cartons for private-label store-brand food and consumer products. A complement of large format die‑cutters and folder‑gluers enable complete in-house production capability. Automated windowing is a specialty of the company, which supports the company’s focus on supplying food product cartons.
In its announcement of the deal, Core Industrial Partners clearly articulated that Century Box was only the first round in its re‑entry to the packaging industry. Strategic initiatives and complementary acquisitions were planned. Less than a week later, the fund made good on its promise and announced round two, the acquisition of General Converting, a folding carton manufacturer in Bolingbrook, Illinois.
General Converting brings geographic and customer diversity to Core’s new platform company. Operating from a 122,000 square foot facility, the acquired company also serves the food industry, with added penetration into the confectionery segment. Additional markets served include pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and fragrance, as well as other consumer products. Printing is accomplished on sheetfed offset presses. Die-cutting and finishing are completed in‑house.
Core Industrial Partners is not alone. In the past two years, private equity has moved aggressively into the highly fragmented business of manufacturing folding cartons. As we noted a couple years ago, the market for folding carton manufacturing had begun to heat up. In recent months, the purchase of box printing companies outpaced the number of deals that involved label printing companies. That had not occurred before in our eleven‑plus years of tracking and commenting on M&A activity in the printing, packaging, and related industries. (See Label Roll-Ups are Red Hot; Are Folding Cartons Next? – March 2022). We expect that the keen interest from private equity firms in the folding carton business will continue unabated for the next several years.