Bungay: Higher profits for Clays owner St Ives

THE parent group of Suffolk-based book printer Clays today reported increased sales and profits despite the continuation of “tough” trading conditions.

St Ives, which has interests across the print and marketing services sectors, posted a pre-tax profit of �16.9million for the 52 weeks to July 29, up 28.3% from �13.2m the previous year, on revenues up 2% at �297.2m, against �291.5m last time.

Excluding one-off factors, underlying pre-tax profits were 17.4% ahead at �20.9million and underlying revenues were 1.8% up at �296.8m.

St Ives said it had made “significant further progress” in reshaping its business during the year, including the sale of its magazine printing division in April, so reducing its exposure to commodity print, and the acquisition Tactical Solutions in February to strengthen its marketing services offer. Two further marketing acquisitions, Response One and Pragma, have been made since the year-end.

Total print revenues fell by 2.7% to �282.7m while marketing services sales advances from �888,000 to �14.1m.

Sales within the group’s books business, which includes Bungay-based Clays, fell by 3.3% compared with the previous year to �77.1million, but St Ives said it had increased its market share and achieved growth in its added value and distribution services.

“Actions taken to improve manufacturing efficiencies and reduce costs mitigated the impact of lower revenues and the business continues to perform very well,” the group said.

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Investments in digital print and print-on-demand had continued to be “very successful”, it added, and the impact on volumes from e-book sales, which it continued to monitor, remained at lower levels than those reported in the United States.

Fast selling titles printed by the group during the year included Jeremy Clarkson’s How hard can it be? and Michael Macintyre’s Life and Laughing, both for Penguin, Howard Jacobson’s Booker Prize-winning The Finkler Question, for Bloomsbury, Madeleine by Kate McCann, for Transworld, Tony Blair’s A Journey, for Random House, and The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, for HarperCollins.

Chief executive, Patrick Martell, said: “The last year has seen significant and important strides forward for St Ives.

“We have continued to reposition the group by strengthening our position in marketing services whilst successful moving away from commoditised print markets.”

He added: “We have also made further encouraging financial progress despite very tough trading conditions.”

The total dividend for St Ives shareholders will be 5.25p per share, up from 3.5p per share last year.