The Future of RR Donnelley Language Solutions Is Starting to Emerge

RR Donnelley, the Nasdaq-listed USD 11bn printing and document services giant, is gradually disclosing more details about its upcoming spin-off into three separate, listed companies.

In August 2015, the Chicago-headquartered company announced its intention to break up the 150 year-old firm into three independent companies, in what was called “perhaps the biggest piece of news in the printing industry in 2015” by industry experts.

RR Donnelley presumably felt it had become too much of a sprawling conglomerate and could offer shareholders a better deal in this new, more nimble incarnation.

Since the announcement, the language industry was waiting to learn more details about the future of RR Donnelley’s sizeable Language Solutions unit headed by VP and Managing Director Christophe Djaouani.

The company did say in the August release that translation was to be under the new “FinancialCo” and briefly mentioned that translation services had a good third quarter 2015 in its Q3 earnings release, but it otherwise stayed quiet on the future of Language Solutions.

Now, however, a more detailed picture is starting to emerge, as the company recently published a fact sheet on names and business mix of the newcos and a press release on leadership.

RR Donnelley & Sons Company

With annual revenues of USD 7bn and 42,000 employees by far the largest newco is going to continue under the old name of RR Donnelley & Sons Company. RR Donnelley’s current COO Daniel L. Knotts will become the new entity’s CEO. The business will be centered on what the company calls “customized digital and printed communications services.”

LSC Communications

Serving “publishers, merchandisers and retailers” will be LSC Communications. This entity with annual revenues USD 3.5bn and 20,000 staff will be headed by current RR Donnelley CEO Thomas J. Quinlan III. The company’s business focus is on the “preparation, production and distribution of periodicals, catalogs, inserts, books, office products and directories.”

Donnelley Financial Solutions

Finally, Donnelley Financial Solutions will be the new home of RR Donnelley Language Solutions. The newco’s business mix includes “content management, multichannel content distribution, data management and analytics, collaborative workflow and business reporting tools and translations services.”

This spin-off will be the smallest of the three, generating an estimated USD 1bn and with a staff of 3,000. Current EVP and CFO Daniel N. Leib will be CEO of the new company. According to the fact sheet, Financial Solutions will be a “financial communications services company serving both the investment and capital markets worldwide.”

Perhaps what is striking from a branding perspective for Language Solutions is that RR Donnelley chose to place its translations business in a new company with such a clear focus on the financial space.

While Language Solutions does have a strong presence in the financial services industry, it also has a broad client portfolio in life sciences and among industrial and manufacturing companies.

Still, with an estimated 10% of group revenues, Language Solutions will be a much more substantial part of the overall business and, given the translation industry’s continued growth, it should be a strategic priority.

With ample access to financing, the new parent company could become an important consolidator in the language services space. According to printing industry analyst Paul Reilly, “there’s little doubt that RR Donnelley is going to remain a very acquisitive company.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated the announcement on the spin-off was made in April 2015 instead of August 2015 and implied the announcement did not contain information about the future of translation services.