New owner of SP and Service Graphics outlines plans

Jo Francis
Friday, March 9, 2018

The new owner of Service Graphics and SP Group has pledged to "revitalise" the businesses under private ownership.

Kouakou has tasked business adviser and consultant Declan Salter – who previously worked in the printing industry for many years and is a former chief executive of Watmoughs and divisional director at Jarvis Porter, and has also consulted for Royal Mail – with overseeing the investment on his behalf.  

Salter told PrintWeek: "Landry is a great guy, he's a fantastic analyst and he's been looking at the St Ives portfolio for a year. The aim is to build this up into a successful company and probably add three-to-five more companies to create a portfolio of businesses to manage and run in the UK." 

The acquired businesses: SP Group, Service Graphics and field marketing businesses Tactical Solutions (together with its subsidiary Flare), will continue to operate with their existing management, with Salter overseeing the whole. Salter and Kouakou have been visiting the operations this week.  

"The reaction has been really positive. Staff are appreciative that they now know where their future lies," Salter added. "They know there will be some changes but our intention is to revive the businesses, and give them some focus and capex where needed.  

"It's a chance to revitalise and redirect the businesses going forward." 

The group of companies had sales of £106.3m last year and posted a loss of £4.4m.  

However, in the St Ives interim results just posted, while sales at the disposed of operations were down 9% at £53.2m following a number of contract losses, pre-tax profits were £1.2m, up from £345k in the same period the prior year.  

Around 1,000 staff are employed across the operations, which span exhibition and events printing, point-of-sale, and field marketing. There are no changes in the terms and conditions for employees.  

"The really encouraging thing is that we knew that the basic organisation and systems and people were very well run, and the numbers are meticulous. They are well-managed, with well-trained managers and good disciplines," Salter added. "The factories are in a superb position, there is just some capex to make where clients need something that we haven't currently got." 

Salter said the companies could be more nimble in future under private ownership.  

"Most of the competitors are in private ownership and it's great for these three businesses to now be in private ownership too," he said. 

Funding for the deal came from Kouakou and a bank. With the new owner effectively a start-up, Salter said he was also in the process of speaking with customers and key suppliers to explain the SelmerBridge strategy and backing: "Three things are important – people, customers and suppliers. We are working our way through the list and we have already spoken to or written to major customers and suppliers and will be in touch with them all over the coming days." 

Clients include a wide range of retailers and brands, including M&S, Holland & Barrett, Calvin Klein and Carling. 

Nick Cole, who previously headed the businesses, has remained at St Ives running its remaining Marketing Activation operation, print management firm St Ives Management Services (SIMS). 

St Ives made a £14m goodwill write-off as a result of the sale.   

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