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A Match Made in Heaven? Oberthur Fiduciaire’s Acquisition of Rolling Optics

A Match Made in Heaven? Oberthur Fiduciaire’s Acquisition of Rolling Optics

In a sector as niche as banknote printing, finding ways to get ahead, to innovate and to modernise is essential. Firms are therefore constantly on the lookout for market opportunities in order to expand or integrate new solutions, work with startup innovators or simply gain a foothold in new markets. French security printing firm Oberthur Fiduciaire is no exception, and its recent acquisition of Swedish firm Rolling Optics is testament to its ambitious approach.

The banknote printing sector thrives on trust, and the trust of central banks around the world cannot be gained without innovation and development in security features. Oberthur Fiduciaire has therefore always prided itself on its ability to adapt and innovate, its ability to react to market opportunities to constantly improve its product and build trust with its longstanding clients. The banknote is by its very nature a high-security and highly technological product. The security aspects of banknotes are under constant development,” said Thomas Savare, CEO of the French firm.

In-house innovations

Oberthur itself has leveraged its own decades of experience and know-how to develop a series of state-of-the-art security features that strike a real balance between aesthetics and technological prowess. To achieve this, the firm undertakers constant research and development focused on banknote paper, inks, printing techniques, and state-of-the-art security features that provide modern, high-tech protection. “Our R&D division works relentlessly to create new security features that we offer our clients in order to deal with counterfeits. Developments in our clients’ banknote series are a perfect illustration of the technological innovations at work in our industry” said Savare. These solutions are crucial for the development of integrity and trust, and go some way to explain the firm’s ability to present itself as an attractive partner to governments and central banks around the globe.

This process has involved some astute acquisitions along the way, notably the buy-out of VHP Security Paper, a specialised firm located in the Netherlands, the acquisition of which in 2017 later allowed Oberthur to reinforce supply chain resilience during the economic crisis instigated by the Covid-19 pandemic. “VHP Security Paper has been producing and supplying state-of-the-art banknote paper throughout the world for more than 200 years. It was the right choice and the perfect match for both Oberthur and VHP,” said Savare following the deal.

This ability to adapt and respond to a volatile market has helped the firm evolve. It has consequently been able to patent some 17 innovations, all of which are essential to guaranteeing that banknotes are both durable and tamper-proof: from its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and antiviral Bioguard solution developed to protect the surface of banknotes from dangerous pathogens, new-generation 3D threads (Relief), anti-scanner security backgrounds (Labyrinth), security elements based on liquid crystals (Starsheen) or  Pulsar, an alluring colour shift security thread that integrates micro-optics top create dynamic visual effects. All these cutting-edge technologies make each banknote not just a real work of art, but at the cutting edge of technological innovation.

A new partner for technological development

In addition to constant in-house innovation, Oberthur is always looking at what is being done elsewhere in the market (as was the case with VHP) and has decided to make a quantum leap in the field of micro-optics with the acquisition of Rolling Optics. The importance of micro-optic technology in the development of banknote security solutions led Oberthur recently to acquire 71% of Rolling Optics, which has developed a complex micro-optical technology that creates a unique visual effect which is impossible to copy and easy to use. Speaking following the buy-out, Thomas Savre, Oberthur Fiduciaire’s CEO said that a new product has been launched – AnimaTM – “This thread is extraordinary because it offers spectacular and unique movement with different variations that make it virtually impossible to copy. This new product complements our range of offerings in the premium thread and foil segment to the banknote market.  With Relief and its unique 3D effects, and Pulsar which integrates ingenious micro-optics, to name but a few, Oberthur Fiduciaire holds now a key position in the field of innovative solutions”.

This acquisition can be better understood in the framework of a worldwide race for security through innovation. Counterfeiting is the number one concern for central banks when it comes to the printing of their currencies, and in order to stay a step ahead, technological innovation is key. Therefore, diversifying your pool of expertise is a surefire way to stay one step ahead of the pack. Oberthur Fiduciaire has always been able to stay several steps ahead by making its products even more complex. As a result, the production of counterfeit notes is becoming more and more costly, given the constant updating of the technologies used, which are increasingly difficult to circumvent.

The ECB (European Central Bank) is constantly keeping a close eye on the number of counterfeit notes seized, and acquiring solutions developed by firms like Rolling Optics can only help Oberthur ensure authenticity in the eyes of regulators. As underlined by Thomas Savare “We must innovate to ensure that we are always one or more steps ahead of the counterfeiters. Innovation is also needed to stand out from the competition and ensure the trust of central banks and the billions of people who use banknotes every day”.

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