Walstead seals deal for Polestar Bicester

By Jo Francis, Saturday 04 June 2016

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Wyndeham Group owner Walstead has rescued Polestar’s Bicester operation with a deal to buy the equipment at the site and re-employ more than 300 staff.

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Polestar: Bicester site now Wyndeham Bicester

Polestar Bicester was part of Polestar UK Print, which went into administration on 25 April.

Walstead announced a major continental acquisition with the purchase of Leykam Let’s Print just eight weeks ago.

It has made the Bicester acquisition through a new subsidiary company, Wyndeham Bicester Ltd.

The deal was agreed with administrators from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), and Walstead chairman Mark Scanlon said all 321 employees at the site would transfer to Wyndeham Bicester.

Walstead is also understood to have purchased all of the equipment at Bicester, and which was previously owned by Polestar and Close Brothers Asset Finance.

Close Brothers Asset Finance was owed £6.3m by Polestar Bicester, secured on assets worth £7.7m when the business was sold in a pre-pack sale in March, according to reports from PwC.

Walstead has also reached agreement with landlord Sir John Madejski, the former owner of Goodhead Group, who still owns the Bicester site through his Madejski Ark property business.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed. Walstead has not bought Bicester's business, customer contracts, books or records. 

"We will now review the volume and type of work produced at the site and commence discussions with the customers to determine how Wyndeham can help them," Scanlon said. 

Wyndeham staff are on site at Bicester today (4 June).

Anxious publishing customers had expected the Bicester sale to be confirmed last month. Both Walstead and YM Group put in offers for the operation.

Negotiations are understood to have been extremely complex.

Bicester clients include Time Inc UK, Dennis Publishing, and Private Eye.

Walstead had looked at the Bicester site before, when Goodhead Group went into administration in 2012, but did not pursue its interest at the time and the business ended up being bought by Polestar in a pre-pack deal.

Bicester runs seven web presses including four Manroland Lithoman 64/72pp presses, 16pp Komori System 38 and Manroland Polyman models, and a 48pp Heidelberg Sunday 4000.

It has a comprehensive bindery including three perfect binding lines, four stitching lines and mailroom equipment. The perfect binding setup includes a 32-station Heidelberg UB binder that is one of the biggest binding lines in the country.

However, just two weeks prior to to the pre-pack sale in March that proved disastrous for Polestar and its owner Proventus Capital Partners, Polestar had announced plans to shut down Bicester’s Heidelberg M4000 48pp press with the loss of around 16 jobs.

Polestar Bicester had sales of £55.7m in its last set of accounts, for the year to 30 September 2014.

Walstead’s UK sales were around £111m in its most recent set of filed results, to 31 December 2014, which reflected the loss of its Time Inc UK contract to Polestar. But the continental buys made by the group since in Spain and central Europe have catapulted the group turnover figure to almost €500m (£382m).

Administrators from PwC had made around 22 employees at Bicester redundant since their appointment last month.

The Polestar Stones and Wheatons operations, also in administration, remain up for sale. 

Yesterday (2 June), YM Group confirmed its acquisition of Polestar Chantry in Wakefield. 

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