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Unipapel of Spain to buy Spicers; UK and Irish businesses being sold on to Better Capital.

Wednesday 6 July 2011

DS Smith, the paper packaging and office products supplier, has agreed to sell Spicers, Europe’s leading wholesaler of office stationery and equipment , to Unipapel, the Spanish paper group, for an enterprise value of £200m.
After completion, Better Capital, the investment fund founded by maverick venture capitalist Jon Moulton, has agreed to pay £32m for Spicers’ UK and Irish arm, which accounts for about half of its turnover.
Spicers claims to be the market leader in the UK, Ireland, France and Benelux and also has operations in Spain, Germany and Italy. In the year to 30 April, Spicers’ profits rose from £21m to £25m on unaltered sales of £715m – about one third of DS Smith’s turnover.
In spite of improving margins at Spicers – from 2.9 per cent to 3.5 per cent – in the last financial year, Miles Roberts, DS Smith’s chief executive, has described it as “non-core” to the company’s focus.
Spicers improved trading as its strong performance in Europe offset “more challenging trading conditions” in the UK business, which is set to be inherited by Mr Moulton’s vehicle.
The headline value of the deal with Unipapel was more than the £150m price tag that analysts expected. Unipapel is to take over the gross assets of Spicers worth £235m and gross liabilities worth £126m. Mr Roberts estimated that DS Smith will make a £60m net profit on the disposal, which will go towards paying down group debt.
Better Capital, which specialises in investing in companies that require restructuring, has recently purchased units of Connaught, the defunct support services company, out of administration and in April last year it also bought out Reader’s Digest for £13m after its collapse into administration.
Mr Moulton left Alchemy Partners in 2009 and set up Better Capital after calling for the buy-out house he founded to be wound up after disagreements over strategy.

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