Global News at a Glance

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Dell and Staples extend retail agreement
Dell products are now being sold in Staples’ Canadian operations as the two companies extend their agreement introduced in the US last autumn. Selected Dell products are now available at over 280 Staples Business Depot stores throughout Canada and on its website.

Ex-SHOPA executive creates new OP service
Global Sales and Event Management (GSEM), the company set up by former SBTS managing director Carm Crawford, has launched a new service for the school and office products industry. The School and Office Products Network is a fee-based membership organisation that will provide its members with industry and consumer trend research as well as other business services beginning in the second quarter of 2008. In addition to research and global activities, the network will offer participants business services such as shipping discounts, online business databases, a job database and energy discounts. Members will also receive reduced rates on educational webinars, have access to the online membership database and be able to promote new products on the network website.

SEC formalises Depot probe
Office Depot has admitted that the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has opened a formal investigation over allegations that Depot violated SEC rules in 2007, by making a series of telephone calls to analysts before the publication of its results. The SEC had opened informal investigations last July following revelations that certain analysts had reportedly received information about Depot’s quarterly results before the rest of the market. Now Depot has said that formal proceedings commenced in January and that the SEC is looking at the company’s books. If found to have acted improperly, Depot risks financial penalties and may even have to restate earnings.

Staples weathers the storm
Staples produced a solid set of yearly and quarterly results despite a drop in its same-store retail sales in the US. On a comparable basis, total sales for 2007 increased by 9 percent to $19.4 billion. A same-store sales drop of 3 percent in the North American retail division was offset by a 14 percent increase in North American delivery sales and a 7 percent rise in international sales. For Q4, which ended on 2 February, comparable US retail sales fell by 6 percent. European retail operations also posted a same-store decrease, though only of 1 percent. Total company net profit increased to $996 million versus $974 million in 2006, while quarterly profit also increased after factoring out the extra week of trading in Q4 of 2006. For 2008, Staples expects the weak economic climate to continue and said that its outlook was "cautious", though it still expected an increase in both sales and profits for the year.

Fellowes files suit against Chinese manufacturer
Fellowes’ German subsidiary has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Chinese firm Changzhou Jinpex Electronics. Fellowes’ suit alleges that Jinpex has infringed Fellowes’ registered European Community design right relating to the design of a paper shredder throat as well as Fellowes’ unregistered European Community design right relating to the company’s recently introduced shredder designs. A hearing on the charges is scheduled for 4 November 2008 in Frankfurt, Germany. In the suit, Fellowes seeks to have Jinpex immediately stop the distribution, importation and sale of its allegedly infringing products. Fellowes is also seeking monetary damages.

NOPA testifies to US Congress
NOPA representative Mark Leazer of Forms and Supply testified before the US House of Representatives Committee on Small Business regarding the controversial issue of small business "fronts" in federal and state contracts. NOPA is seeking specific legislative reforms to prevent these contract situations in the future, claiming that they are "formed for the sole purpose of helping the large company gain improper access to contracts set aside for small business". Leazer stated that the adverse impact on legitimate small business office products dealers has reached over $100 million in annual federal and state contract losses.

M-real reorganises office papers division
M-real has changed the organisational structure of its office papers division to be "much more customer- and market-oriented". The company has identified four key channels that make up today’s distribution network, namely paper merchants, office product industry (OPI), original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and business reels, and has created a specific sales and marketing team for each channel. Each team is led by a commercial director with channel specific knowledge and expertise. The four channel directors are Leena Niemi (merchants), Sven Hjelmstedt (OPI), Hannu Ikavalko (OEM) and Frédéric Deschamps (business reels). The new organisation officially came into effect on 1 January, but M-real said that the process of changing customer contacts would take place over the first quarter.

Océ opens technology centre in Singapore
Print and document management company Océ has opened a new technology centre in Singapore. Océ Technologies Asia (OTA) will become the control hub for the company’s activities in Asia. It will incorporate research and development, product introductions, supply chain management and procurement. Océ employs 120 people in Singapore, where it has had a presence for more than 30 years. The company says that OTA will increase its visibility in the Asian region, which accounts for approximately €3 billion ($4.6 billion), or just five percent, of its overall sales.

Pakistan aims to up stationery exports
Pakistan’s Trade Development Authority (TDAP) has launched an initiative to boost the country’s stationery exports. The TDAP recently formed a committee comprising leading stationery manufacturers to look at ways of achieving a $500 million target for stationery exports. The seven-member committee, led by the chairman of the country’s writing instrument manufacturers association, has been given 30 days to come up with a strategic plan to increase the level of stationery exports to $500 million within the next five years.

Harvey Norman prepares Ofis opening
Australia-based retail group Harvey Norman will open the first two stores of its new Ofis chain at the end of this month. The stores are located in New South Wales and there are plans for ten outlets by the end of the year. Meanwhile, the group reported half-yearly profits of US$192 million, 31 percent up on the same period last year. Sales for the period were up by over 12 percent to $2 billion.

Mondi’s profits jump
South African paper company Mondi said that pre-tax profits rose by 71 percent to €382 million ($595 million) in 2007. Sales rose by 9 percent to €6.3 billion and operating margins improved to 8 percent thanks to a combination of cost savings of €167 million and price increases. Mondi was also helped by its exposure in emerging markets which account for around 45 percent of its sales and which are currently enjoying growth rates of between 6 and 10 percent. Further cost reductions are expected in 2008 with the reorganisation of the European fine papers business and the closure of a Hungarian mill.