Berforts book arm falls into administration

By Darryl Danielli, Friday 11 September 2015

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Berforts Information Press (BIP), one of the last dedicated colour book printers in the UK, has been placed in administration.

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Berforts Information Press: Stevenage site. Image: Google Maps

Richard Rones of ThorntonRones was appointed administrator on Monday 7 September at the request of the £7m-turnover, 70-staff business’s directors as a result of “serious manufacturing problems”.

BIP’s sister commercial and short-run digital business, 20-staff, £2m-turnover Berforts in Hastings, East Sussex, is a separate legal entity and unaffected by the move.

“We had some serious litho manufacturing problems at the [BIP] site, in relation to the failure of certain plant, which we had been battling with for the past five or six months, and it got to the stage where we couldn’t go on as the site couldn’t deliver on time,” said Berforts chief executive Gerald White.

“So I had to make the difficult decision to call it a day as it was clear that were weren’t going to get these problems fixed in reasonable time.”

Berforts Information Press consists of two sites in Stevenage, Hertfordshire and Eynsham, Oxfordshire.

The two sites continue to operate to complete work in progress (WIP) not impacted by the litho manufacturing problems, while the administrator looks for a possible buyer of either the business or its assets. However, White expects the business will be wound down by the administrator over the coming months, possibly closing before Christmas.

“If a buyer were to come forward and want to take the business and assets to another site that could work, but my feeling is that is unlikely,” said White.

He stressed that he had no intention of buying the business back himself.

“I’m by far the biggest creditor and the business will continue its WIP with a view to paying off its debts before closing,” he said.

However, he added that until WIP was completed and the assets were sold he was not sure if all creditors would be paid in full.

“The business has an awful lot of plant and machinery, millions of pounds, and it didn’t have large outstanding debts, but until everything is sold we simply don’t know.”

Earlier this year, BIP installed a Konica Minolta bizhub press C1100 and four-colour Komori H-UV SRA1 Press as part of a £1.2m spend.

PrintWeek understands the production problems followed the installation of some used bindery kit earlier this year.

However, White would not be drawn on the precise details of the problem or what bindery kit was involved and would only say that because of the undisclosed problem the business had been “unable to deliver on time for quite some time”.

BIP’s fall into administration follows the closure of Butler Tanner & Dennis last May, the business rescued by the late publishing icon Felix Dennis in 2008, which was merged with BIP in the summer of 2013.

While White said the collapse of the ill-fated joint venture hadn’t helped the situation at BIP, having resulted in the loss of several clients, it had not really played a part in the more recent problems at the business.

“We had lots of work at the business, in fact on Monday we had an order book of £550,000 – it was simply the delivery, printing was no problem. I had been funding the business personally and it just got to the point when the situation couldn’t continue.”

White, who was appointed BPIF president last year, said he would continue in the role for the time being, although he added that it would ultimately be the decision of the BPIF board.

BPIF chief executive Charles Jarrold said: "I know Gerald has done everything he possibly can to support the business. At this point of time I'm more concerned about him and his employees than the issue of the BPIF presidency, and we'll do everything we can to offer advice and support.

"Our constitution says we have to review the situation in these circumstances and consider the nature of what has happened. BPIF members will want the federation to take a considered view about it, and that's what we will do."

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