Australian competition regulator the ACCC must now confront the headache which has been looming since it approved the rationalisation of the country’s heatset printing segment: that the two remaining companies become one.
Opus Group had already been allowed to buy Ovato’s book printing division – in the hope that the sale might avert collapse – before the print giant went into administration.
Now a bid has come from magazine and catalogue printing rival Ive Group, the success of which is probably the single biggest cause of Ovato’s problems.
Ive has entered into an implementation deed with administrators FTI Consulting, agreeing to “good faith negotiations” for the signing of an asset sale, in which Ive would acquire “all or parts” of the business or assets of Ovato.
A statement by Ive chief executive Matt Aitken says his company wants to see customers retained, the channel supported and people kept in their jobs.
In a statement to the stock exchange, executive chairman Geoff Selig says that “while ultimately it is a matter for determination by the ACCC to grant clearance… Ive’s view is that there are strong arguments to support competition clearance” for the proposed transaction.
Market enquries by the ACCC, and the diligence process will now occupy coming weeks. If Ive firms the implementation deed into a binding offer, it says the timeline for a purchase will depend on the regulator.
Even with the rationalisation which has taken place, Ovato includes several operations – including the Warwick Farm super site with its seven heatset presses, heatset plants in Brisbane and Perth, smaller operations in Cairns and Auckland, and a packaging business in Brisbane – and it is not clear how much of this Ive wants.
Ovato is on both sides of the catalogue and magazine printing divide, as well as in the paid content space between, with magazines – where Are Media is a customer – accounting for about a quarter of work and catalogues 60 per cent.
Either way, at least part of the story is told is told in sales – which have fallen from a billion dollars a year at the time of the PMP-IPMG merger, to $123 million in the most recent half year – and profits… or the lack of them.