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Rural Press to spend $50 million in print expansion over next three to four years

Thursday, 19 February 2004
By Print 21 Online Article

Brian McCarthy, managing director, reported company revenues up 5.2% to $251 million with net profit rising 23.4% to $42 million across the group’s diverse printing and publishing, radio, agricultural shows and US publishing activities. Printing and publishing provided the main dynamic with the Australasian business posting $228.8 revenue up from $209.8 in 2002. Operating margins in the division improved to 28.4% from 25.4%. Printing accounts for 18% of the company’s revenue.

The company is presently assessing printing capacity at its major sites with regard to pagination colour, back-up between sites, future market needs and the capacity to expand its national network. It currently operates 17 web printing and seven commercial sheetfed printing sites. It publishes 158 regional and metro publications, and 56 agricultural publications.

Its most recent new press installation at Ballarat last year is on track, working three shifts and getting 60% utilization. Overall printing volumes are up 15% at major sites.

McCarthy said the board had considered changing the group’s name to more accurately reflect its activities. He committed Rural to continued growth with the company pursuing other opportunities.

Without much elaboration the report said that the company’s New Zealand operation is “maintaining a sound contribution.”

The half yearly report came after Rural Press gained control of the Tasmanian printing and publishing company of Harris & Company after a hostile takeover. It detailed some features of its acquisition, which includes a substantial web printing and small sheet fed printing works, in addition to two regional newspapers, The Burnie Advocate and the Launceston Examiner.

The Hobart printing centre has an annual throughput of 3,000 tonnes with 40% of that comprising external work. The press is a MAN Roland web, the first of the new generation of presses when installed n the early 1990s. It is similar to those at Rural Press’ North Richmond, Canberra and Ballarat sites. It has a capacity of 48 pages; 32 pages full and 16 pages spot colour, or 96 pages full and 80 pages spot colour at 60,000 cph. There is also a small sheet printing business.

The company will conduct an intensive analysis of efficiency and benchmarks of the Harris plant, which will report to group printing manager, Bob Lockley. Staff changes are flagged and the company will seek synergies with the introduction of Rural Press practices.

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