CPI acquired by Circle Media

Jo Francis
Thursday, July 26, 2018

Circle Media Group has established a major presence in the UK with the takeover of pan-European book printer CPI Group, in the latest industry consolidation play.

Circle merged with Roto Smeets in 2017 and acquired Belgian web offset printer Corelio earlier this year, after which the former CirclePrinters was rebranded as Circle Media Group.

CPI is headquartered in France and has sales of €360m (£320m), with 16 factories across its home country, the UK, Germany, Spain and the Czech Republic employing around 2,500 staff. Its book printing businesses date back to 1713 in France, and 1857 in the UK. 

In the UK its circa £100m turnover operation encompasses book printing operations CPI Books in Chatham and Croydon; CPI Antony Rowe in Chippenham, Melksham and Eastbourne; and CPI William Clowes in Suffolk. High-quality commercial printing wing CPI Colour is also based in Croydon, while creative agency CPI Connect is based in London.

The group has invested heavily in digital printing technology, and the buy means Circle Media will enter that part of the market for the first time.

Circle Media bought the business from previous owners French conglomerate Impala, the French state-owned bank BPI France, and private investors. They had acquired CPI five years ago in a €21m deal.

The terms of the takeover were not disclosed. Close Brothers Asset Finance supported and partially financed the transaction.

Circle Media chairman Peter Andreou said the two companies had been in discussions for about a year. He described the acquisition as “transformational” for the group, and said that CPI’s core business of book printing was complementary to Circle Media’s existing web offset and gravure operations, which also include a book printing operation in Spain.

There will not be any name change for the business, which will continue to operate as CPI. 

“CPI has an exceptional management team and slots straight into our group structure. They can produce one million books a day, but they might just be printing a single book and they have really captured that business model. It also allows us to get into digital printing and creates operational efficiencies across the group.”

CPI has 29 digital presses across its facilities, and the combined group will operate a total of 135 presses processing around 1m tonnes of paper a year. 

CPI chief executive Pierre-François Catté will continue in his role. CPI’s French labels business, Labelys, is not included in the deal and continues as an independent entity under new ownership.

Catté said: “Jointly, we will further develop and strengthen the European book printing activities, while securing employment opportunities and delivering superior service to our clients. At the same time, Labelys benefits from an increased focus and will continue to grow on a standalone basis.”

The deal has already been approved by the relevant authorities and works councils.

Following the takeover, the Circle Media Group will have sales of around €900m and more than 5,000 employees across 26 sites. It now lays claim to being the largest independent printing group in Europe. Although the group's core business is printing, Andreou said its existing digital media businesses had sales of around €60m. 

He said he remained on the lookout for more M&A opportunities. “Our ambition is to continue to acquire. We’ve got some more strategic targets in the pipeline including a couple of marketing services and content businesses in the UK as well as some companies on the continent. The intention is to create a sustainable, profitable, cash-generative group.”


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