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Heidelberg has confirmed it is talking to possible digital partners to enable it to sell digital presses in 170 countries and said a deal should be in place by the end of 2010.

"We want to supply [the machines], service and consumables and we are currently in the evaluation stage to talk to several possible partners, who have an attractive product portfolio and for whom Heidelberg is attractive," said chief executive Bernhard Schreier.

"These are ongoing discussions and, within this year, we want to have made that decision."

Speaking to PrintWeek prior to Heidelberg's pre-Ipex briefing, where the company announced a raft of enhancements to its product range, Schreier said the deal could actually be concluded in "a few months" but that he believed it would probably take nearer six months or possibly longer.

"The relationships are there, as are the sales, service, and logistics networks, and we will bring benefits and value to the party. It needs the right product portfolio to complement that," he said.

He wouldn't be drawn on the identity of the possible partner, but said it wouldn't necessarily be just one and explained that the group was looking to integrate both inkjet and toner-based technologies into its portfolio.

"We have to find out what combination makes sense for our customers," he added.

The manufacturer will focus on a "complete digital portfolio" and not just high-end production workhorses, although Schreier said that all of the machines would have to offer high image quality.