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Elie Raphael from Arab Printing Press : the Lebanese printing industry has a promising future

This week we visited Arab Printing Press one of the leading printing house in Lebanon.

We discussed with Elie Raphael the managing director and he exposed his vision of a flourishing industry.

Could you brief us about the history of Arab Printing Press sal ?
It was established in 1968.Today it is a 100 employee company and we are one of the largest printing houses in Lebanon and in Middle east. We have both state-of-the art technology and excellent printing know how and experience. We have now a fully integrated line of production, from prepress to printing and binding, nothing is outsourced, the product is fully done in house.

And what kind of printing works are you specialized in ?
Our specialization is in magazines, books, catalogues and all kinds of commercial printing such as leaflets, brochures, posters, letter heads, stationery etc.. For a monthly production capacity of around two million books and 500000 to one million magazines.
We use “computer to plate” technology in the company for two years now. That means the plates are directly and automatically produced from the digital files, we do not produce films anymore and this is a drastic step forward in terms of productivity and quality.
Our pre-press department is also directly linked to the printing machines. The data we are working on in the prepress department are directly send on line to the printing presses, thus avoiding paper and time waste. This also guarantees exceptional quality for the final product.

What are your most important markets after Lebanon ?
As you said Lebanon is our main market and I can say that we gained an excellent reputation throughout the years here. Building on these solid domestic roots we are now expanding to Europe mainly in the countries of northern Europe, Africa and the Arab world.

Are there advantages for a foreign company to outsource its printing works in Lebanon ?
Well they can find the very same quality as the one they get in their countries, and sometimes even better at very competitive prices. In addition to this, with our production capacity we achieve and respect outstanding delivery time. With regard to the costs, as I said earlier, we are extensively equipped with state-of-the art technology, very productive equipment and the labour cost is low compared to the one in European countries. The combination of these different parameters allow us to deliver a job in Europe for example 20-30% cheaper than the price of the same job produced locally. On top of that we have the current exchange rate of the $/Euro that are in our favour.

Is Lebanon positioned as a printing centre ?
Lebanon has always been an outsourcing country for printing works in the Arab world. Most of Arab periodicals have been printed in Lebanon for years. The same goes for school books. So Lebanon is already a centre for printing, and the whole industry strives to keep this competitive advantage by investing in innovative production machines and techniques, and by investing in human resource development. The country enjoys an image of quality, reliability and professionalism. This image is not usurped.
I think the same can be achieved with European countries.

Are you already marketing your company abroad ?
Definitely we are. We participate in major book fairs and exhibitions, we also approach and visit companies directly and we also rely on the internet to get new contacts.

Just a word about Iraq...
Iraq used to be a very important market for Lebanon in general, not only for the printing industry. And I hope it will recover a stable situation. The Iraqi people is the one that read most in the Arab world. We already have contacts there.

Beyrouth,12 15 2003
Yann Rotil
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