Anton Group has been placed in administration with more than 100 of its 300–plus workforce made redundant.
PrintWeek understands that the company initially got in to difficulties in the run up to Christmas, after it acquired one of its customers to avoid being hit by a significant bad debt. However, the acquisition failed to generate the sales expected and seriously strained Anton’s cashflow.
According to several sources, Anton then approached its key suppliers to extend payment terms. While suppliers are understood to have supported the business’s recovery plan, it subsequently suffered a drop in sales as a number of unsettled customers moved work away from the business.
As a result, Anton began working with Deloitte in what has been described as “an accelerated sale process” around a month ago, in an attempt to refinance the business.
However, no buyers were found and Richard Hawes and Clare Baldwin of Deloitte were appointed administrators yesterday afternoon (27 March) with 123 staff immediately made redundant.
In a statement, Deloitte said: “The business has been struggling financially in recent months as a result of declining sales, a high cost base in need of restructure and an acquisition of a business called Merchandise 365 last year in an attempt to expand operations, which has instead incurred further losses.
“The business had been seeking further investment to support ongoing trading, however, this was unsuccessful and therefore the directors had no alternative but to place the company into administration."
Deloitte said that company will now “be placed into an orderly wind-down” while it looks to sell the contracts and assets.
Anton chief executive Malcolm Lane-Ley was unavailable for comment at the time of writing.
According to its most recent accounts, to the 31 December 2015, the company filed sales of £41.1m, with a pre-tax loss of £436,913. Prior year sales were £61.8m with a pre-tax loss of £973,206.
In Autumn 2014 the business became an Employee Ownership Trust, when the business’s owners effectively retired from the business. However, John Knight, one of the former owners, was still involved in the business on a part-time advisory basis.
The company is believed to be the UK’s largest single-site sheetfed commercial printer. Its 15,300sqm site in Laindon, Essex has the capacity to produce around 2m mail items and 6m B1 sheets per day.
Known for its significant ‘big show’ technology spends, it was one of the early adopters of hybrid litho/high-speed inkjet technology, with several of its six long-perfector Speedmaster XLs with Cutstar running inline Kodak Prosper inkjet systems.
Anton has significant standalone digital firepower, initially centred on Kodak Nexpress technology, but it recently signed for a brace of HP Indigo 12000 B2 digital presses to replace six of the eight Nexpresses. It also signed a partnership with Kodak at Drupa to develop a ‘digilitho’ litho press, based on the manufacturer’s next-generation Ultrastream continuous inkjet technology.