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The administrator of stricken print giant Ovato has received a number of expressions of interest for the business, with serious bidders now going through the company's books.

Up for sale: Ovato including the 7 web supersite in Warwick Farm
Up for sale: Ovato including the 7 web supersite in Warwick Farm
Image - Ovato

Those entities with EOI in Ovato had to let the administrator know by Friday. Print21 understands a number of expressions were received. The administrator is not saying who is in the fray, but the likely runners are fairly clear, although whether they will bid for all or just part of the business is known only to the administrator, who would naturally prefer to sell the business as one whole.

Once the potential bidders have been through the Ovato books, they have until next Thursday 11 August to get their binding offers in.

Potential buyers for Ovato include rival IVE, as well as part-owner and biggest customer, magazine publisher Are Media's owner Mercury Capital, which also majority owns Blue Star Group in New Zealand. Recent investor, the cash-rich Opus Group owner Hong Kong based Left Field Print Group, cannot be discounted.

In addition there will be plenty of private equity funds looking at a cash generating business that has long term contracts, and for which they will be able to shed the “legacy cost issues”, code for the existing employment contracts and staff numbers that Ovato cited as one of the primary reasons it became unsustainable.

In addition the directors could also consider a DOCA, which would entail the creditors agreeing to reduce their claims and agreeing a repayment timeline. However, apart from wiping out much of the debt, a DOCA would not deal with the underlying issues that were cited as reasons for the collapse.

The first creditors meeting took place yesterday, the second is due on 17 August.

Ovato comprises the super-site at Warwick Farm with its seven heatset webs, as well as heatset plants in Qld and WA, a Brisbane based packaging business, and commercial print operations in Cairns and Auckland.

Its customer list includes the biggest magazine publisher in the country, Are Media, which may also be a bidder, and major retailers who place their catalogue work with Ovato. Catalogues in fact is the biggest part of the business, comprising around 60 per cent of the work, with magazines 25 per cent and packaging seven per cent.

Revenue at Ovato will be revealed shortly in its annual accounts, but for Australia is likely to be around $250m-$300m for the year, the first half was $123m. Ovato was a billion dollar a year business when PMP and IPMG merged.

Ovato was placed into voluntary administration by the directors ten days ago, following losses that have totalled $430m over the past five years, and despite a restructure 18 months ago that saw $40m injected into the business, a quarter of the 1200 staff made redundant as the company closed its Victorian manufacturing site in Clayton, and suppliers asked to take a 50 per cent cut in outstanding invoices. Since then a large scale sale process has been underway, with virtually every part of the company that is not core sold off. In addition the New Zealand heatset business was shut down. The company said “market volatility, raw materials increases and legacy cost issues” were the contributing factors to the administration.

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