It was reported in PrintWeek on Friday (22 March) that a safeguarding procedure for Sequana had been converted into a bankruptcy filing that is due to be heard by the Commercial Court of Nanterre on 18 May.
A statement in February from Antalis revealed that it would be setting up a new shareholding structure that would result in its former parent no longer being its majority shareholder. Amid the present legal proceedings, Antalis’ UK & Ireland managing director David Hunter spoke to PrintWeek to reinforce that his company now has “no financial dependence” on Sequana.
With the restructure already underway, Hunter spoke of a “complete alignment” among stakeholders, with major shareholders Sequana and Bpifrance reportedly “completely supportive” of the continuing process, which is being driven by the Antalis Board. Sequana’s 75% share in the company is now under the control of its appointed administrators.
He said: “Given the process carries the support of all parties above, who controls the process is a moot point really with a common objective to find a sustainable, supportive shareholding structure for Antalis that will allow the company to pursue its stated strategy.
“Most people will remember that we underwent an IPO in 2017 that made us an independent company, though Sequana did hold on to some shares. Now we are restructuring our shareholdings, they will be selling on so there is soon to be no connection.
“Because of the ancient history, there can be some confusion in the market, but we have no link to the current legal situation. However, we are watching with interest because of course it affects a number of our former colleagues.”
While Sequana moves forward with its bankruptcy proceedings, its subsidiary paper manufacturer Arjowiggins continues to undergo an administration process at a number of its plants in both France and the UK.
Though no longer sister companies, Arjowiggins continues to be associated with Antalis as one of its long-standing suppliers. According to Hunter, Arjowiggins products constitute around 8% of Antalis’ turnover.
He said Antalis had been hit by “some disruption” to the supply of Arjo’s Graphic product line, though supply of Creative Papers products remained undisturbed so far. The ensuing confusion has, Hunter admitted, led to some credit insurers reducing their cover for Antalis’ suppliers, though this has reportedly varied across different territories.
“The situation is very stable today by and large and is being well managed,” he said. “The situation is different across the countries that Antalis operates in. But it is hard to decipher how much this is down to Brexit worries too.
“We have been very supportive with suppliers in helping them make internal decisions and it is this working collaboratively that is a real strength. The situation will, we feel, return to normal in the coming months as we make progress on the shareholding structure.”
He added: “We have a close working relationship with Arjowiggins and these are people we have known for many years, but legally and financially it is the same as with any other supplier.”
“In terms of Graphic products, we tend to run dual suppliers on all the products we sell and so we have turned to our alternative supplier as a solution for clients. However, we hope that the situation will resolve itself shortly so we can get them back onboard.
“If it does not, though, we have plans in place.”
Hunter was keen to reinforce the general robustness of Antalis as a business, with a reported €2.4bn (£2bn) group turnover – of which he said “more than a quarter” is generated by the UK operation.
Antalis’ year-end results are due to be published at the end of this week.
Hunter concluded: “We have big expansion plans in terms of acquisitions and geography and so we are looking for a new shareholder to essentially take the place left open by Sequana selling its shares. We want a partner who can work with us on this journey in the long term.
“I think the main thing I want to make clear to people, as perhaps we are overly modest and do not speak out often enough, is that we are a straightforward, down-to-earth business and I hope people will see that reflected in our results when they are released.”