Flint to close UK ink factory due to newspaper decline

The Flint facility in Wolverhampton. Image: Google Maps
The Flint facility in Wolverhampton. Image: Google Maps

Flint Group is likely to close its UK newspaper ink plant due to falling demand caused by the ongoing decline in newspaper circulations.

The Wolverhampton manufacturing site is located on the Manders Industrial Estate, a reference to the historic Mander Brothers business that started making pigments in the town back in 1773, and developed into a major manufacturer of inks and paints. 

Flint acquired the Manders ink business in 1997. 

Tony Lord, president of Flint Group’s Commercial Publication Web division said that 63 employees would be affected by the proposed closure over the coming summer, which is subject to consultation.

He said: "It is with deep regret we make this announcement, possibly ending the long standing manufacture of newspaper ink at the Wolverhampton facility. 

“This is entirely as a consequence of the accelerating move towards on-line news content in the UK and elsewhere, which has resulted in a significant reduction in the circulation of newspapers and resulting demand for newspaper printing ink to such a level, where it is currently deemed no longer viable to maintain a facility within the UK.”

Lord described the workforce at the site as “exemplary”.

He added: “As such every possible avenue will be explored to try and retain the bespoke newspaper ink manufacturing site to supply the UK newspaper market, but sadly we have to recognise the collapse in demand for newspaper ink, with no realistic prospect of this changing in the foreseeable future.”

Flint CPS Inks UK is now entering into a formal consultation process with its employees and union representatives to explore any alternatives to site closure and redundancies, or ways to mitigate the impact of redundancies.

The group said that it would ensure the very difficult situation was handled with “the least disruption possible to the committed workforce”.

Flint’s Eurostar range of coldset inks includes process colour and black inks, water-based flexo, waterless offset and letterpress inks, as well as spot colours. 

The group also makes news inks at its Trelleborg facility in Sweden. It could also manufacture the products in Germany or the Netherlands should the need arise.

In its pandemic-impacted results for calendar year 2020, Flint CPS Inks UK posted sales of £28.7m, down 34% from £43.8m in 2019, and made an operating loss of £3.6m (2019 operating profit: £1.26m).

In the commentary accompanying the accounts, Flint said that systematic decline in publications had been “hugely accelerated” during the year, with its Newsink operation particularly badly hit because it also supplied a high-value base ink to the USA, where the impact of Covid-19 had been even more severe. 

More price increases necessary

Separately, Flint Group said that cost pressures and unpredictable supply chain conditions were continuing to disrupt the ink industry overall, and further price increases would be necessary as a result.

The manufacturer stated: “After over two years experiencing the challenges that the global pandemic presented, the more optimistic amongst us had hoped that 2022 would present some stabilisation in the print supply chain, however, as we move in to the second quarter of the year, this stabilisation is yet to materialise, and is unlikely in the near future whilst the tragic events in Ukraine continue to develop.”

Lord said that raw materials continued to suffer from increased demand and an “exponential increase in pricing”. 

As a result, Flint OPS had no choice but to announce further price increases. 

Lord said: “It is with the utmost regret that we are forced to announce further price increases, as we fully understand the difficult climate our customers are operating in.

“We are as hopeful, as all other print related businesses are, that we will soon experience more stable supply chain conditions, however in the meantime, increases imposed on our business have created a situation where continuing to sell our products at our current price level is simply not sustainable”.