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Russian holo producers hit by consolidation of tax seal supply.

Since 1 January 2006 Krypten Research and Production and Kurz have been the only suppliers of holograms for excise tax seals in Russia, whereas since 2001--when it became mandatory for holograms to be used on tax seals (see HN Vol 15, No 1)--at least four companies were making these. This has brought severe difficulties to these producers, although they are aggressively developing new products and looking for new markets.

Under the previous arrangements every bottle of alcohol required two tax banderols, a federal and a provincial one, and each province was free to choose its own design and supplier, within the parameters laid down by government decree. As around eight billion holograms were required annually, this gave a major boost to the still-young Russian hologram industry. Atlas (a state-owned company), Krypten, Concern Russian Security Technology (CRST) and--latterly--First Print Yard were each supplying holograms to Goznak, the state security printer, for the federal tax seal, and companies in other provinces, such as Holograte in St Petersburg, were producing holograms for their province. But following a decree issued by President Putin in autumn last year, only the federal tax seal is required and there was to be only one producer of the the seal: Goznak is the printer and Krypten and Kurz were appointed as the hologram producers.

Inevitably, this has caused major problems for the other suppliers, although, as Alex Goncharsky of the Computer Holography Centre and First Print Yard told Holography News, it has stimulated these companies to find new markets, so in the long run it may benefit holography in Russia. Some complacency had crept in with the significant government business that was thought to be safe.

CRST has perhaps been the hardest hit by this loss of business, which represented about half its total sales last year. The company has been forced to reduce its staff from 75 to 60, and while--according to Georgi Mazourenko (foreign relations manager)--it hopes to recover these sales within a few months, it may yet have to lay off more staff. The company has production facilities and expertise in labels and hot-stamping foils and is aggressively looking for new business in the commercial sector. It has strengthened its marketing staff to do so.

First Print Yard is a security printer which started hologram production in 2003 through a subsidiary called First Print Yard Holographics (see HN Vol 19, No 8). Although the tax stamp business was important to the company it represented only about 15% of its holography business, which in turn is a small part of the company's total sales, according to Goncharsky. The company has been an important second-tier security printer for government documents, which has given its holography company good government connections and it is continuing to produce holograms for certificates, fiduciary and other government-issue documents, and has just landed a new order from Byelorussia.

Perhaps because it was not a supplier of federal tax seal holograms, Holograte is well-advanced in developing its alternative strategy. The company produced 20,000 sq m of HSF for regional tax seals in the first seven months of 2005, and following the loss of this business they have also made 15 staff redundant but have hired new specialists and marketing people, giving a staff of 45. The company has already moved into the commercial packaging market and aims to build this business to replace the lost tax seal sales. Technical director Igor Yusupov told Holography News that the company has also opened a new sales and marketing office to focus and become more efficient in this aspect of its business (perhaps demonstrating Goncharsky's point!)

Holograte has wide-web production for BOPP, PVC and PET, supplying for packaging laminates, and has developed a range of proprietary products for brand enhancement and brand protection, including HoloBack[TM], HoloTone[TM], Holo-Pharm[TM] and HoloTransmit[TM]. The first is a tamper-evident combination of high-refractive index coated and aluminium coated holograms, available as labels or laminates; HoloTone has a dark backing rather than the normal silver, and can be supplied in label or HSF forms. HoloPharm is designed for use on dispensing blister packs, while HoloTransmit (as its name implies) is an HRI-coated transparent hologram.

While all the companies mentioned in this article are aiming to build new business, Holograte seems to be the only one with a specific strategy to look outside Russia. The company has regularly exhibited at trade shows outside the country (including Holo-pack * Holo-print), and especially sees a foreign market for its diffraction gratings for use in laser-beam and spectral optics control. In fact, it has already sold gratings to the USA, UK, Italy, Netherlands and China.

Krypten, of course, has had to expand its production resources, both staff and equipment, having gone from being one of four to sole supplier. The company will now concentrate its resources on meeting demand for these tax seal holograms.

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Title Annotation:TECHNOLOGY NEWS
Publication:Holography News
Date:Feb 1, 2006
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