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Digital imaging firms hope for strong growth this year

Revenues more than doubled in region over the last four years

New products
Image Credit: Francois Nel/Gulf News
The Sign and Graphic Imaging Middle East (SGI) exhibition opened at the Dubai AirportExpo yesterday. The event will showcase some of the latest product innovations in thesignage, digital imaging, and screen, digital and offset print sectors.
Gulf News

Dubai: Digital imaging companies in the UAE say they are optimistic about a bright 2011 as a host of new products prepare to come online, analysts and industry experts told Gulf News this week.

The Middle East's signage, outdoor media, screen and digital printing industries endured a difficult 2010 as a result of the global economic slowdown. But advertising revenue has more than doubled in the region over the last four years and there are signs of an upturn in certain sectors.

Thousands of people gathered at the Sign and Graphic Imaging Exhibition 2011 in Dubai this week, the largest trade show of its kind in the region, to hear about the latest technologies on offer.

Great advantage

Jacob Sebastian, Corporate Planning and Finance Head at International Expo-Consults LLC, the exhibition's organisers, said he expected around 10,000 visitors to attend the event, which ended yesterday.

"Last year, most of the major companies each sold around three or four large printers worth between Dh600,000 and Dh2 million. There are around 15-17 major printing houses in Dubai and they are looking at the latest technologies. We have visitors from all across the GCC, the Indian subcontinent and Africa. The industry is growing internationally and that will be reflected on a local level."

Sebastian said there was a slight drop in participation from China this year but that 80 per cent of the show's exhibitors were first-time participants, which he viewed as a great advantage of the event.

Some of the world's largest companies launched their new products over the course of three days at Dubai Airport Expo, with the majority of exhibitors saying they were optimistic about the year ahead.

Abdullah Ghalayini, general manager of Agfa Middle East and Africa, said Agfa still made a profit in 2010 in what was a difficult year for the entire industry.

Competitive industry

He said: "Agfa acquired Gandinnovations in January 2010 and as a result we have expanded our range of inkjet printing. We have also invested a lot into our research and development initiatives especially new products such as printing for textiles and high resolution images; we are also looking at ‘green ink' to print on recyclable material.

"It is going to be an exciting year. We were in the black last year so that is one positive thing to say about 2010. The economy across the Middle East and Africa was not great but we did make a profit. It is a very competitive industry, especially when the economy slows down."

The industry is currently going through a transition phase with many companies developing products that move away from the conventional method of printing towards more digital products.

George Semaan, LFP business manager at Hewlett-Packard Middle East, said: "Every year, Hewlett-Packard is an active participant in the show and we always display the latest technologies the company has to offer. It is one of the most important industry shows in the Middle East as we get to meet our end users and retailers.

"Our latest product, which was launched in the fall of 2010, is the e7100. Each printer has characteristics that cater for a certain segment in the market. If we look at the Z6200, it is the fastest photographic printer in the world; it caters for professional photographers, art collectors and museum curators."

A survey conducted by PARC in partnership with the research consultancy Kantar Media found that nearly 40 per cent of the UAE's adult population in 2009 had reported seeing a large poster on a billboard at the side of the road or on a building within the past week.

Shaharyar Omar, an analyst at the Pan Arab Research Centre (PARC), said the measured advertising industry had more than doubled in the region over the last few years from $6.6 billion (Dh24.2 billion) in 2006 to $13.7 billion (Dh50.3 billion) in 2010.

Omar said: "Shopping malls and departmental stores sector in the region reported a 15 per cent increase in advertising spend last year. The UAE is the biggest spender in the region's shopping sector and consolidated its position by posting a robust growth of 12 per cent in 2010. The sector ranks next only to government advertising in UAE."