Circle Media: all print plants now failed or for sale

Jo Francis
Thursday, April 25, 2019

Circle Media Group has hit the buffers and appears likely to disappear from print altogether – its Austrian web offset business is the latest subsidiary to file for bankruptcy, while the rest of the group’s printing operations have been put up for sale.

In the space of three months problem upon problem piled up for the business. It filed for bankruptcy at Helio Charleroi in Belgium, and at Roto Smeets in the Netherlands, and effected the hurried sales of Finnish gravure printer Helprint and book and commercial printer CPI Group.

During the same period union representatives on the continent also went public with their concerns about the group’s financial position.

Today (25 April) Circle announced that its Austrian web offset business Oberndorfer Druck – which was established in 1913 – “would be discontinued”. Local sources said the company had filed for bankruptcy.

Circle Media also announced that it was searching for potential buyers for its remaining printing businesses in Germany, Belgium and Spain. These are: J Fink Druckerei and Körner Druck; Corelio Printing; and Altair and Rotocayfo.

Customers include a host of leading continental retailers and catalogue companies, as well as some UK catalogue companies.

Former Polestar chief operating officer Peter Andreou (below) took over as chairman and chief executive officer at the then-CirclePrinters business in the summer of 2016, with fresh investors backing his ambitious plan to lead the consolidation of the European printing industry. That plan now lies in tatters.

peter-andreou

The group said that “a strong decline in volumes” had stymied its ambitions, with Andreou admitting defeat.

In a statement, he said: “Our intention was to play a leading role in the necessary consolidation of the European print industry. Over the past three years we have created a pan-European group of print companies with a loyal customer base. We must conclude now that we are no longer in a position to realise our ambition.

“Our businesses in Germany (Körner Druck and J Fink Druckerei) and Belgium (Corelio Printing) are in good shape and deserve a future under new ownership. For our recently refinanced Spanish business we are currently investigating the options including new ownership.”

An industry source said: “To build the group up so quickly and for it to then fail so quickly is spectacular. He’s bought things on the cheap but then not had the cash to restructure it. It’s been a massive failure.”

The situation for the group’s creditors is currently unclear.

Attention has automatically turned to Walstead Group as a potential purchaser for parts of the business due to its track record of expanding through a number of major acquisitions on the continent.

Chairman Mark Scanlon told PrintWeek: “As the leading and most successful consolidator of the European web offset sector, Walstead is closely monitoring Circle Media Group’s situation. If any of its businesses become available then we would consider their strategic and financial benefit and decide on a course of action accordingly.”

When Circle Media Group acquired Körner Druck in December 2018, the group laid claim to being the largest independent print and media group in Europe with sales of €900m (£777m) and 5,000 employees.

At its peak the group had 26 printing sites across 10 European countries as well as an operation in the USA. 

Circle Media also has a number of data and content businesses on the continent that were not included in the announcement.

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