Walstead is poised to make its next European acquisition, but must first await approval from competition authorities in Austria.
Walstead has agreed terms to buy the printing arm of the Niederösterreicheische Printhaus, a newspaper and magazine publisher from St Polten, located in Lower Austria, the most north easterly of Austria’s regions. The main newspaper has a paid-for circulation of 527,000 a week.
Until September last year NP Druck was part of the publishing business. It was hived off to allow the different areas to achieve a stronger focus the company explained at the time, pledging continues support for the print arm. It had been restructured and returned to profitability working for both Austrian and international clients.
NP Druck has 165 staff and sales of around €55 million, making it one of the leading independent print businesses in the country. It operates two 48pp and two 16pp web presses, supported by sheetfed litho capable of printing 6.3 million pages an hour. It reckons to have 300 magazine customers.
In 2016, Walstead bought Leykam Let’s Print, at the time Austria’s largest independent print business. It runs 18 different web presses across four locations generating sales of €237 million with 710 employees. The contribution from this business combined with that from the former Polestar plant in Bicester, accounted for an 85% increase in sales for Walstead in 2017. The group reported sales of €481.1 million (€260.0 million) in 2017
The deal has been referred to BWB, the Austrian Federal Competition Authority, because of the expansion of control over the printing sector in Austria. Until that is decided, neither Walstead nor the parent company is making formal statements nor disclosing details of the transaction.