Can Walstead succeed as a cross-continental print player?

Jo Francis
Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Jo Francis is intrigued by news of Brits going shopping in Spain.

Wyndeham Group’s owner has made a bold, and unexpected, move onto the continent with the purchase of Bertelsmann’s Spanish web and gravure plants.

As one wag commented, upon hearing about yesterday’s breaking news: “no one expects the Spanish Acquisition”.

There are, perhaps, some lessons from the past in all this.

The older reader may recall that, back at the turn of the century, Polestar acquired HelioColor and became the biggest gravure printer in Spain. The group had ambitions to be a “European rather than primarily UK” printer under its then-chief executive Jim Brown.

St Ives also had a continental output in the past, German web printer Johler Druck.

Polestar subsequently formed a joint venture with Grupo Prisa in Spain but ended up retrenching to the UK, exiting from its Spanish and Hungarian ventures.

St Ives sold the German business in 2005 and then exited the web market altogether, and it was of course Walstead that acquired its UK plants.

It’s a fascinating situation. Under its previous owner there was no need for Be Printers to be actively selling gravure into the UK from Spain, because it had a state-of-the-art plant here of its own in the shape of Prinovis Liverpool.

I wonder if that might change under the new owners?

One thing is a known known, the Walstead team don’t do anything without looking into all the details and possible outcomes. And chairman Mark Scanlon is already talking about possible future consolidation opportunities in Spain.

As ever, it’s going to be fascinating to see what happens next. And, to quote Polestar chief executive Barry Hibbert: “It’s good to see a UK printer expanding overseas.”



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