The Chinese print group Leo has its origins in a small factory set up in Hong Kong in 1982. The first investment on the Chinese mainland followed in 1989 with the opening of a factory in Nanhai District. At the end of 1991, the Leo Group then established Heshan Astros Printing in the city of Heshan. Constant expansion of the overseas market fostered healthy growth for Heshan Astros Printing and the other group subsidiaries. The favourable geographical location, modern production equipment and professional staff were decisive contributing factors. Today, Leo is one of the largest print enterprises in the world. A spectacular print complex covering an area of 666,000 m2 stands out in bright yellow and blue on what was once low-lying marshland.
Strong exports …
Astros currently counts more than 14,000 employees. Investments over the past years have totalled more than €235 million (RMB 1.9 billion), and exports have reached some €285 million (RMB 2.53 billion). From 2007 to 2012, the company recorded an average growth rate of around 10 per cent. The key export markets are Europe, the USA and Australia, which Astros serves through its own sales offices in Reading (UK), Seattle (USA), Antwerp (Belgium) and Milan (Italy). They maintain close customer relationships with customers at global level and can thus stay abreast of all the latest market trends. In 2011, for example, Astros designed and produced a high-quality 3D book, with which its customer successfully gained accreditation as a supplier to the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
… and success in domestic packaging
The production value of the Chinese packaging sector increased from RMB 250 billion in 2003 to RMB 1,200 billion in 2010. That corresponds to an annual growth rate of 21 per cent. As the global packaging market continues to shift towards Asia, and above all to China, this trend will probably be accelerated further in the next three to five years. China is set to become the second-largest packaging producer in the world.
Against this background, Astros has begun to develop print capacities for the domestic packaging market through a number of joint ventures: The companies Shanghai Tophand Business Printing Co., Ltd. and Leo Creative (Shanghai) Trading Co., Ltd. were established in Shanghai to help develop the market in the Yangtse River Delta region, while Huaao Printing Co., Ltd., Jiangxi Xinhua Printing House and Jiangxi Xinhua Bookstore in Jiangxi cater to the Central China market.
Astros places a focus on corrugated and carton packaging, with Leo United Paper Products supplying primarily functional corrugated packaging. To this end, considerable sums have been invested in modern flexo equipment and post-press systems. Equal attention is paid to the mid- and high-quality segments, where corresponding investments and product developments have enabled Astros to consolidate long-standing partnerships with many customers.
KBA technology for attractive products
Astros has ranked third on the list of the “Top 100 Print Enterprises in China” for the past three years. The fine reputation of Astros products throughout the world is confirmed by the stream of prizes received by the company, for example Premium Print Awards, Gold Ink Awards, and the First Prize of China Printing. The outstanding position which Leo occupies in the print industry today is furthermore indivisible from the excellence of its equipment base.
From a compact Genius 52 UV up to a large-format Rapida in format 120 x 162 cm, Astros operates a total of eight sheetfed offset presses from KBA. “With its excellent presses and reliable service organisation, KBA helps us to deliver products of stable high quality to our customers,” says Yang Zemin, president of the Leo Paper Group. He is full of praise for the cooperation between the two companies: “Beside its protection functions, packaging must also be visually appealing to the consumer. Through the long-term cooperation with KBA, we have repeatedly been able to incorporate the latest features into our presses, which permits us to offer our customers new, attractive products, and at the same time forms a basis for maximum production efficiency.”
Model enterprise in environmental protection
In recent years, Astros has collected numerous awards for its commitment to environmental protection, for example the Hang Seng Pearl River Delta Environmental Grand Award in 2007, and a Hong Kong Award for Industries in 2008. In 2010, the Leo Group also received the Gold Award in the sectoral category “Manufacturing” at the Hong Kong Awards for Environmental Excellence. This prestigious award scheme honours outstanding achievements in environmental protection, culture and management.
Yang Zemin: “This is pleasing recognition for our work to date. The real purpose of our efforts, however, is not to win prizes, but rather to fulfil our social responsibility and to contribute to a ‘green and harmonious world’. That is also why a ‘zero-waste factory’ is our next objective.”