News Corp looks to build new Melbourne print site

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Newspaper printer and publisher News Corp is looking for a site to build its own new Melbourne print centre, having offloaded its monster Westgate Park complex for $55m in a sale and leaseback deal, according to Peter Coleman's newspaper industry website GXpress.

GXpress reports that News is already lining up its production power for the new site, including the double-width Goss Uniliner T90 press from its now closed Ormiston plant that was previously owned by Fairfax, and a Geoman from the Chullora plant in NSW.

Mailroom equipment is thought to be coming from the UK, whose newspaper industry has suffered a huge downturn since the GFC, resulting in plenty of redundant equipment. In 2010 there were 22 million papers printed each day in the Old Dart; last year that figure was less than half, at 10.4 million.

Seeking new Vic print site: News

News Corp is eschewing the option of sharing the Ballarat print site with the Nine (formerly Fairfax) papers, as the scheduling would not allow the evening AFL results to be on back pages of its morning titles. News prints the top-selling Herald Sun, local editions of The Australian, and other titles.

Westgate Park - the biggest remaing newspaper press hall in the country - is the third of the big three newspaper sites to go, following Tullamarine and Chullora, reflecting the downturn of the industry here. However, while Fairfax (now Nine) famously followed a digital first strategy, News remains publicly committed to printed newspapers.

The Westgate Park site was built to receive half a dozen new manroland Newsman 40 presses in 1992 as the local newspaper industry dumped letterpress and moved to litho. The presses were part of Rupert Murdoch's record-shattering $1bn press deal with manroland, inked in 1987, for presses in the UK and Australia.

Total investment in Westgate Park at the time was $340m, with the manroland line reputedly the largest in the world, the plant run with automated guided vehicles, and a high tech Ferag publishing system, adapted to keep pace with the new high speed presses.

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