What next for St Ives?

By Jo Francis, Tuesday 24 January 2017

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In the wake of its latest profits warning, Jo Francis ponders the future for St Ives's remaining print operations.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

These are unhappy times at St Ives Towers. To have one profits warning is unfortunate, to have two in the space of nine months is, frankly, a disaster.

If there’s a bunker at number one Tudor Street, I guess CEO Matt Armitage and CFO Brad Gray are currently in it.

What happens next? Since the summer of 2010 the group has, to use the popular parlance, ‘bet the farm’ on reinventing itself as a marketing services business, shelling out the best part of £280m (based on the payments if all the acquired businesses hit their performance targets) in its bid to become a marketing powerhouse. But the Strategic Marketing division is not proving to be a star performer as yet – like-for-like sales are flat, and the pipeline of new work is not flowing as strongly as anticipated.

This time last year there was a rights issue to help fund St Ives’s biggest buy yet, the £55m deal to acquire The App Business. The rights issue raised £13.8m through the placing of 6.4m new shares at – ouch – 215p a share.

The share price today is 72.81p.

The other important number is net debt, which at the year-end was £80.8m.

What happens next? Well, St Ives previously offloaded its unloved web division to Walstead, and from where I sit this latest turn of events hoists a huge question mark over the future for the Marketing Activation print ops – SP Group and Service Graphics – within the group.

It could even result in a ‘for sale’ sign being hoisted over Clays.

Perhaps the question should be, what will go first? Marketing Activation or Matt Armitage?

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