St Ives Direct Bradford sold to Cogent B2B

Simon Nias
Monday, September 30, 2013

St Ives has announced the sale of its Bradford-based direct mail business, St Ives Direct Bradford, to Cogent B2B for 8m.

The deal includes an initial payment of £3m and a deferred payment of £5m, secured against St Ives Direct Bradford's (SIDB) assets and repayable in 24 monthly installments commencing on 1 November.

St Ives Direct Bradford generated a pre-tax profit of £1.2m on sales of £35m for the year to 27 July 2012 and had gross assets of £11.1m, including property, which St Ives will retain ownership of and lease to Cogent B2B at a market rate.

Around 180 staff remain at Bradford following the outsourcing of its enclosing operation earlier in the summer, all 180 will now transfer to Cogent B2B.

According to its website, Cogent B2B offers consultancy services to distressed SMEs with a turnover of £1m to £60m, although it has recently started acquiring direct mail companies, starting with Bradford-based Prospect Mailing Services, which it purchased in October 2012.

This was followed, in November 2012, by the acquisition of Leeds-based Griffin Direct Mailing and today's announcement of its purchase of St Ives Direct Bradford.

St Ives said the disposal was consistent with its strategy to refocus on marketing services and move away from the commoditised sectors of the print market.

This began with the sale of its loss-making Dutch multimedia business, St Ives Uden, in 2008. and continued with the sale of its remaining overseas subsidiary, St Ives (USA), in 2009.

In the UK, this strategy has resulted in the closure of: St Ives' Crayford CD and DVD packaging business; its Blackburn, Edenbridge and Leeds direct mail facilities; fine art printer Westerham Press; Sevenoaks Print Finishers; and its Andover web plant, which was closed prior to the sale of magazine printing arm St Ives Web.

At the same time St Ives has made numerous marketing services acquisitions, including Occam DM, Tactical Solutions, Response One, Pragma Holdings, Sponge, Amaze, and Branded3 Search, and a minority stake in e-book business Evolved.

St Ives chief executive Patrick Martell, who was appointed in April 2009 and has been the driving force behind the reshaping of the business, said: "Following a fundamental realignment of our business, in which we have built a substantial and broadly-based marketing services offering while moving away from commoditised print, it is clear that SIDB no longer fits within our new structure and will benefit from alternative ownership.

"This effectively completes the exit from our non-core printing operations, and allows us to focus wholly on strengthening our marketing services offering and remaining print businesses, in line with our stated strategy."

Cogent B2B director Kevin Dunstall was unavailable for comment at the time of writing.

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