IPC opts for single supplier after Polestar and Wyndeham tender

Jo Francis
Monday, March 31, 2014

IPC Media has handed its multi-million pound print contract to a single supplier, in a move that has far-reaching ramifications for the UK magazine printing supply chain.

The majority of the publisher’s work is currently split between Wyndeham Group and Polestar, and PrintWeek understands that after a protracted tendering process Polestar has secured a single-supplier, multi-year deal that will kick in when the current contracts expire at the end of June.

It involves around £20m worth of weekly and monthly titles from its Southbank, Connect and Inspire divisions that are currently printed gravure and web offset.

Wyndeham’s current share of the web offset tranche, including flagship monthlies such as Marie Claire, is understood to involve around £10m of work.

The move effectively mirrors what parent Time Inc has done in the USA, where senior vice president of production Guy Gleysteen has had a single-supplier deal with Quad/Graphics for some time.

Wyndeham announced the loss to its workforce this morning.

Its subsidiary Rhapsody Media still handles IPC’s pre-media work.

Chief executive Paul Utting said: "Naturally, we are disappointed and surprised by this decision. However, we have enjoyed a hugely successful year which involved major contract renewals and new business wins. In the contractual market we renewed deals worth over £30 million per annum including Condé Nast, Haymarket, FT, The Economist, Hearst, John Brown, and many others; clearly, these major publishers view Wyndeham as a core long-term supplier."

He said Wyndeham had also grown its market share in cormmercial printing, and had won more than £15m of commercial work, which was "more than the current value of the IPC contract" for the group.

He added: "The dynamics of the web offset sector have always involved contractual work moving from one supplier to another. For example, we were awarded the IPC contract that was previously with St Ives only four years ago. Despite this loss we continue to win far more new work than we will lose and we expect this to remain the case."

IPC and Polestar are yet to comment. It is a major coup for Polestar, which is currently in the process of a £50m investment in its web offset platform involving six new presses from Goss International including the first new generation 96pp webs in the country.

However, the first of Polestar’s new presses will not be operational until later this year, after the commencement of the new IPC deal.

As well as the additional volume of printing involved, the Southbank titles currently handled by Wyndeham also have complex binding requirements.

One magazine production expert told PrintWeek: “I’m amazed. IPC is effectively saying that every other publishing group in this country is wrong, because all of them believe they need at least two key suppliers.”

The outcome of the print review had been expected at the beginning of the year. It is now just 13 weeks until the current contracts expire

Time Warner is in the process of spinning off the Time Inc publishing division that includes IPC. The business will become a standalone, publicly-quoted entity with the process expected to be completed by the end of June.

Financial reports from Time Warner indicate that Time Inc will have debts of around $1.3bn (£780m) when it is spun off. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal the publisher is currently in the midst of a cost-cutting and streamlining exercise involving the loss of 500 jobs worldwide. 

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