Anton ‘rescue’ appears no longer viable

The current trading status of Anton Group is unclear, with a number of sources reporting that the business effectively ceased trading yesterday.

The business appointed Richard Hawes and Clare Baldwin of Deloitte as joint administrators on Tuesday (27 March), resulting in just over 120 of its 300-plus staff being made immediately redundant.

It’s unclear how many staff remain on site.

Deloitte was unable to clarify the situation at the time of writing.

Prior to the administration, Deloitte had been working with the Anton management to find a buyer or investor for the business.

Sources close to the business said that in the in recent days the management team had been “working hard on a rescue plan”. It’s understood that the rescue plan centred on a potential trade buyer.

According to several senior industry sources, Paragon Group was the unnamed trade buyer initially interested in acquiring all or part of the Anton business. Paragon has a track record of buying large, stricken businesses, most recently Magnadata and Service Point.

However, PrintWeek understands that due to nature of the administration process and the resulting loss of several key Anton clients, Paragon was unable to make a potential rescue deal work.

Paragon was unavailable for comment at the time of writing.

The sources added that a handful of key Anton customers had remained loyal to the business on the understanding that the business would have a new owner in the coming days.

According to its website Anton’s client list included: Boots; BT; Lloyds Bank; NatWest; Sainsbury’s, Scottish Power, Tesco and Virgin Media. Williams Lea appears to have been its biggest print management client.

One source said: “The frustrating thing for clients was that they were continually being reassured that all was going to be OK, only to be left high and dry.”

In the initial “appointment” statement from the administrators, the company laid the blame for its demise on “declining sales, a high cost base in need of restructure and an acquisition of a business called Merchandise 365 last year in an attempt to expand operations which has instead incurred further losses”.

However, one rival simply observed: "Sad day for them, [but] if it costs you a £1 and you continually sell it for less than £1 then in the end you will go broke."

More to follow…