A merger between Berforts Information Press and Butler Tanner & Dennis (BT&D) is set to create the third-biggest book printing group in the UK.
The two companies will come together at the beginning of next month as a result of a share swap between BT&D owner Felix Dennis and Berforts majority shareholder Gerald White.
The duo will have a 50:50 share in the combined venture, with White taking over as chief executive. The new group will be called Berforts BT&D and has projected sales of more than £25m, placing it in third spot behind St Ives Clays and CPI in terms of size.
Publishing magnate Dennis rescued Butler & Tanner in the summer of 2008 after it was controversially closed by then-owner Media & Print Investments.
However, the Frome-based colour book printer has remained stubbornly loss-making, despite bolting on a profitable map printing business as a result of a deal with Ordnance Survey in 2010.
Dennis has continued to support the company, loaning the business more than £5m and providing security for its £650,000 overdraft according to its last filed accounts. But he has also been evaluating sale options for the business since at least the end of last year.
He was diagnosed with throat cancer in January 2012 but described himself as "provisionally" on the mend six months ago.
BT&D made an operating loss of £1.5m on sales of £14.9m in the period from 11 February 2011 to 31 December 2011. The bottom line loss was £1.9m and auditors Bright Grahame Murray added a going concern note because the group’s liabilities exceeded its assets by £1.9m.
However, White told PrintWeek that he was optimistic about the prospects for the combined entity once his business skills were added to the equation.
"We’re going to turn it around," he stated. "The deal has been done to make sure it doesn’t incur losses in the future.
"Felix has supported this through thick and thin. He is determined and I am determined that it will be there for the long-term."
White urged publishers to support the new entity.
"This is a British book printing company supplying British publishers. We are relying on the publishing industry to support us," he said.
Berforts, which acquired Information Press in April 2012 and the digital division of Bluepoint Cambridge three months after that, is profitable and set to achieve turnover of around £15m this year.
It has operations in Hastings, Stevenage and Eynsham and employs 125 staff.
BT&D employs 105 in Frome.
The management structure for the enlarged group is "under review", White added, and the group plans to continue with its existing locations for the foreseeable future.