Family-run Firstan bought by acquisitive group

Darryl Danielli
Tuesday, January 19, 2021

AR Packaging has bought Firstan as the acquisitive Swedish groups looks to significantly bolster its UK presence.

AR's Schulz: Firstan purchase is of significant strategic importance
AR's Schulz: Firstan purchase is of significant strategic importance

The deal for the 140-staff family-run pharma and food packaging specialist, which is based near Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, completed last Friday (15 January). Terms were not disclosed.

According to AR Packaging group marketing & communication director Ingrid Lidbäck the acquisition came about due to each firm’s strategic goals.

"It was a combination of Firstan wanting to take the next step in their development and AR Packaging having a strategic plan to expand in selected segments and geographies."

Private-equity-owned AR Packaging is headquartered in Sweden and has sales of more than €900m (£801m). It operates 30 factories across 13 countries largely in Europe, but with sizeable operations in Indonesia, Nigeria and Russia.

"This addition [of Firstan] is of significant strategic importance to strengthen our position on the UK market,” said AR Packaging CEO and president Harald Schulz.

“Together with our existing two plants in the UK, Firstan provides an excellent platform for further growth in this important and fast-moving market.”

Prior to the deal, its UK offering centered on its two existing UK sites: a 30-staff business in Highbridge, Somerset which specialises in flexible packaging and a 40-staff operation in Rotherham which produces paper cups, lids and tubes for FMCG customers.

Bought by CVC Capital Partners in 2016, in the past five years the acquisitive packaging group has almost doubled its footprint and revenue and its offering now includes folding cartons, trays, cups, flexible materials, system solutions, leaflets, and labels.

“I am happy to see our company take the next step in its development and join AR Packaging,” said Firstan Holdings managing director Andrew Hartwig, who led a secondary MBO at the business in 2007.

“Our strategically located and well invested facility will together with our skilled team add further capabilities to AR Packaging and we will together offer extended services to all UK customers.”

According to its most recent filed accounts, to December 2019, Firstan generated pre-tax profits of just over £2m on sales of £22.4m.

The business will be rebranded as AR Packaging in due course.

Lidbäck said that AR Packaging was looking forward to getting “to know the company more in detail and initiate the full integration process” and it had no immediate plans to change the management structure.

“Andrew Hartwig has since some time decided to focus on other businesses while we are very happy to have Paul Hartwig [production director] continue to develop the company as part of the management team,” she said.

Paul Hartwig added: “This is a very exciting new chapter for our business. Together with the rest of the management team, I am looking forward to working with the AR Packaging team to take our business to the next level.”

Last summer, the business bolstered its management team with the appointment of former Benson Box managing director Mark Kerridge who joined as chief financial officer to enable managing director and majority shareholder Andrew Hartwig to take a step back from day-to-day operations.



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