Toppan to Combine Translation Units After Buying Merrill’s Capital Markets Business

Global printing giant Toppan Leefung acquired Merrill Corporation’s Capital Markets and Compliance business in August 2018. The Merrill business will be absorbed into Toppan Vintage, a division of Toppan Leefung, which is housed under parent company Toppan Printing Co., Ltd. The transaction details of the acquisition were not disclosed.

The Merrill name will already be familiar to many in the language industry. In June 2016, Merrill Corp put its translation unit, Merrill Brink, up for sale. Merrill Brink was snapped up by private equity firm Northern Pacific Group, and the company formed new language service provider United Language Group by amalgamating Merrill Brink and another LSP, KJ International (KJI).  

Although Merrill disposed of its dedicated translation unit more than two years ago, the company retained some language capabilities in other units, notably under the Capital Markets and Compliance business, which Toppan has now acquired. Another recent acquisition of Toppan is Vintage, a former division of PR Newswire that Toppan Vintage acquired in March 2017.

Slator spoke to Po Fong, Director of Operations, Translation at Toppan Vintage, about the Merrill acquisition. Fong told Slator via email that “the joint organization will ultimately be known as Toppan Merrill” and “the company plans to unveil a corporate rebrand in the coming months”.

Translation demand is mostly coming from Asia and we envision that growth to continue for some time

Fong said that “Merrill Corporation has 3,000 people worldwide and Toppan Vintage is part of the Toppan Printing Co., Ltd., the world’s leading printing group, headquartered in Tokyo with approximately USD 14bn in annual sales.” “The acquisition includes many of Merrill’s offices in North America, EMEA, India and APAC,” Fong told Slator.

According to Fong, the combined organization will have around 120 in-house translators. The Merrill acquisition also “brings a larger capacity and presence in other markets that Toppan has not previously engaged with,” said Fong. Currently, “translation demand is mostly coming from Asia and we envision that growth to continue for some time,” she added.

Although the Merrill translation team does not have any translation technology in place, Fong believes that “technological advancements and the increase in the number of professional translators will further increase our abilities to meet our client’s needs,” as a result of the acquisition.

IPO translations and Asia

According to Fong, much of Toppan’s translation demand comes from companies launching Initial Public Offerings (IPOs). The Director of Operations for Translation said that “translation can be an integral part of the IPO process, [and] we know first-hand that having an in-house team is crucial to meeting our clients demanding timetables.” Read more about how translation is an integral part of a Hong Kong IPO listing in this 2015 feature.

On the competitive landscape, Fong said that “for IPO translation, our closest competitor of comparable size used to be DFS (Donnelley Financial Solutions) before they sold their Language Solutions arm earlier this year.”

Fong, who is based in Hong Kong, a major hotspot for IPOs and a big market for Toppan, said of local competitors that “while most outsource, there are some small financial printers that have their own in-house translation teams. These companies can usually support 1 or 2 small IPOs a year and we sometimes compete with them for those HK IPOs.”

At present in Hong Kong, Toppan Vintage and the legacy Merrill business are both “operating as two separate companies and have undergone some integration between teams. At this stage, we have already begun to share internal resources between both operations and our intentions are that the two firms will be merged as one by early next year,” Fong said.

In integrating the translation teams, Fong explained that the business aims “to handle most translation needs in-house which gives us a higher degree of control over the process.”

Increasing regulatory complexities

Fong believes that “the increasing regulatory complexity around the financial markets has created higher requirements/demand for translation”. She said that deadlines have become tighter over the past five years and clients expectations are continuing to rise, making “a large in-house translation team all the more important.”  

What else is Toppan doing to support growing demand and tighter turn around times? “Currently we are using, testing and assessing a number of technologies, particularly TMS [translation management system],” Fong explained.

Neural machine translation still cannot be applied to our operations

The company is not, however, exploring the use of neural machine translation (NMT) at the moment. Fong says this is partly because accuracy is so important in financial translation and, in many cases, “investors are making decisions based upon the information that is supplied by the professional parties, so there will be the need for a high quality of translation to validate those statements,” she explained. “Neural machine translation still cannot be applied to our operations,” Fong added.

That said, Fong does still think that the future of the language industry is one that will be comprised of a machine translation plus human editing model (MTPE). “However, the financial printing and communications industry is far from that at this point in time,” she said.

For insights into language services and technology in the financial industry, download the Slator Financial Industry report.