Polestar 'on track' and anticipating pivotal year

Jo Francis
Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Polestar has filed its first set of results since acquiring BGP and Stones, and chief executive Barry Hibbert has further joint ventures and acquisitions in his sights for this year.

Group sales for Polestar Print Holdings in the year to 30 September 2013, including a ten-month contribution from the former Goodhead businesses, rose 10.2% to £238.9m.

EBITDA increased from £34m to £37.1m, with Polestar Bicester (formerly BGP) improving its EBITDA figure from £1.2m to £2.9m in the period.

“EBITDA is growing and we will be into a good cash surplus this year. We are on plan and on track,” Hibbert said.

Although the underlying sales decline, excluding Bicester, appeared to be 11% Hibbert said this did not represent a true like-for-like comparison. “You can’t really exclude Bicester because we moved work around after the acquisition. Yes, the underlying trend was down, but part of the problem the industry has is identifying what is underlying decline, and what is the affect of the recession,” he explained.

“Since September we have seen significant improvements in demand, so the real test is now – what are publishers’ paginations and run lengths and retail demand going to be?” Hibbert added.

The group’s pre-tax loss for the year was £9.3m (2012: £4.4m), with a £5.4m gain on property provisions reducing the 2013 trading loss.

Polestar also filed an £8.7m exceptional charge for restructuring and redundancy costs in a period that included the closure of its Varnicoat and Chromoworks businesses, as well as the post-acquisition restructuring of Bicester.

The group is now poised to embark upon its web offset revamp, with the first Goss 96pp press arriving in May and set to be up and running in July. Hibbert declined to go into details of locations while consultations with the union and workforce remain ongoing.

However, he said it was “debatable” whether all the new presses – and associated binding kit – could go into the proposed extension at Polestar’s Sheffield site. “It doesn’t make sense to put everything in one plant,” Hibbert stated. “This is not the USA where they have acres and acres of land. And the amount of trucks coming and going at one time also has a bearing.”

On 1 January Hibbert tweeted that 2014 was set to be “one of the most exciting in Polestar’s history… JVs acquisitions and much more.”

He told PrintWeek that the group was looking at opportunities in print and beyond. “As we did with Bicester, hopefully there will be more consolidation to come and we’d like to participate in that – but it’s got to make sense for Polestar.

“We are also looking at opportunities not directly related to gravure or offset, such as digital workflows and added-value workstreams. We are already processing a lot of data and we are in a good position to supply publishers and retailers with cost benefits,” Hibbert added.

“It’s an area we’re keen to progress and [Polestar owner] Sun Capital is keen to see us diversify into new revenue streams.”


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