06 September 2020 Business

Super merger unites Precision, Prime and ProCo

Three of the UK's leading digital print businesses are combining to become one of the country's largest printers, with plans to double sales in short order.

Three of the country’s leading digital print businesses are uniting to create a £45 million turnover super group.

After two years of serious discussions Precision Printing, ProCo and Prime Group today become the Precision Proco Group, with plans to double turnover in the next three years.

“We wanted to take a bold step, something that moves away from tested tested models,” says Gary Peeling, who becomes group CEO while having responsibilities over the upload and print online model, represented currently by Where The Trade Buys. Jon Bailey, ProCo CEO becomes chief operating officer and Jon Tolley, CEO of Prime, becomes chief information officer in the new group.

The board is completed by Dominic Neary, who has joined the new business as CFO and comes with a background in commerce having worked for JustEat, and Philip Osmond becomes non executive chairman. He is a former director of British Airways and oversaw the merger between the UK airline and Iberia.

His skills will not be needed for the combination of the three print businesses. Each has known each other for a number of years and have collaborated on multiple projects, acting as disaster recovery back up. The directors have held similar roles within DScoop, the HP Indigo users groups that was brought to Europe with Peeling, Tolley and Bailey in active roles.

“As a collective we have worked together at DScoop and on projects for a number of years,” says Tolley. “We already have a shared history.”

HP Indigo presses make up the majority of the 15 digital presses that the new business has. It also operates an HP PageWide T240 inkjet press and four RMGT 9 litho presses, as well as an extensive fleet of finishing technologies, being complemented by the installation of a Kolbus line in a new factory for the Nottingham operation.

“We have a mutual respect and trust of each other, but that can only go so far,” says Bailey. “To achieve any real innovation you have to go a step further and when you are three individual businesses that is not as easy. We wanted all our teams to be completely aligned.”

The new businesses will be 100% owned by the existing 20 shareholders. All remain committed to the business and have invested their working lives into building the separate businesses. “The plan today is the same as it was two years ago,” says Peeling, “but with everyone involved it takes a while to pull these things together, especially when the economic situation is changing.”

The deal was ready for approval and signatures at the end of February, but then came the lockdowns, and while this did not slow some of the practical aspects of implementation, the deal has remained under wraps until now.

The integration will be helped by a common production platform from workflow through presses. A big difference is that by seamlessly shifting work to the plants best suited to that job the group will be able to increase efficiency and equipment utilisations.

“We have been driven by the realisation that digital disruption is not only changing our industry, but also that of our customers,” says Peeling. “It is changing how they live, where they work and how they use print as a product.”

Separately the three have been driving in these directions, ProCo with a direct mail and end to end marketing focus, Prime through fulfilment and projects with the likes of Kelloggs and into short run book printing, Precision through corporate clients and as one of the leading exponents of single copy print production.

Bailey will lead the commercial, corporate and print management customer base and the requirement for daily communication; Prime will specialise in mass customisation, photo products and gifting products under Tolley, while Peeling will focus on development of Where The Trade Buys and the upload and print sector.

The group will also include software development agency Climb and Where The Trade Buys. It will have production sites in Gateshead, Sheffield, Mansfield, Stansted and Dagenham. “We have an ambitious road map, to take the business from £45 million to in excess of £90 million in three years,” says Peeling. “This is not a defensive move, it is a growth play.”

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Print's new super group brings together friends and industry colleagues Messrs Tolley, Peeling and Bailey and the opportunity to create a new style of print business. A "bold step" has been taken says Peeling.

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