THOMAS DE LA RUE set up shop more than 200 years ago, printing newspapers, then playing cards and stamps. In 1860 a contract to print banknotes for Mauritius started a transformation. Today De La Rue is the largest commercial banknote and passport printer, involved in aspects of the production of currencies for 140 countries, and passports for over 40.
The British firm’s chief executive, Martin Sutherland, is relatively relaxed about the much-heralded death of cash. Despite advances in payments technology, and a shift to cards in Europe, the total demand for cash has proven remarkably resilient. Transaction values are rising rapidly in emerging economies, where hard currency is still the norm. De La Rue expects world demand for banknotes to grow by 3-4% a year for the foreseeable future.
But there are problems nonetheless. Even at the best of times, note production, which accounts for over 70% of the company’s revenues, is a volatile business. Contracts are lumpy. State-owned printers often call in commercial printers at short notice to manage spikes in demand, which are unpredictable. On top of that, national authorities are demanding better value. They are…Continue reading