Critical time at YM Group as sites go on sale

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The future ownership – and structure – of YM Group is up in the air with an accelerated sale process underway and the possibility of directors being appointed at three of its sites.

Industry speculation has swirled in recent weeks over the group’s ability to continue without a fresh infusion of cash from major backer Pricoa.

Print week may reveal that notices of intent to appoint a director (NOI) were filed today (March 25) relating to web clearing mills YM Chantry Ltd in Wakefield, York Mailing Ltd in York and Pindar (Scarborough) Ltd in Scarborough .

The other operations of the YM Group: The Lettershop Ltd and Go Direct Marketing Ltd in Leeds, and the YM Group itself were free of notice at the time of writing.

Print week understands that FRP Advisory has put in place an “accelerated” sale process which will end next week.

The list of potential buyers seems small, with Walstead Group and Paragon Group the obvious names in the frame.

YM Group chief executive Stephen Goodman said Print week that the company was working with FRP “in an advisory role”.

“We filed a notice of intent to appoint for Pindar, York Mailing and YM Chantry this morning,” he said.

“It is by no means certain that directors will actually be appointed, the NOI is procedural. No other YM Group company is affected by these NOIs,” Goodman said.

Industry sources also said Print week that some clients have been advised by YM that it may not be able to produce scheduled jobs.

Major customers whose urgent weeklies are printed within the group include Daily Mail publisher DMG Media, Bauer Media and Guardian News & Media.

“DMG and Bauer have a big problem. They have millions of books of paper in Chantry that are press specific,” an informed source noted.

There is also further speculation that, depending on what happens over the next few days, DMG may be forced to take out an “operating license” from Chantry in order to release its titles, or may have to ramp up its plans to bring the impression of Weekend internal review.

The tabloid format Weekend has a circulation of over 1.5 million copies per week, while the circulation of the smallest You title for the Mail on Sunday is about 840,000.

by Bauer Choice of television is the largest paid magazine title in the UK. It has an ABC of 1,016,951 and is 100% actively bought, with each issue fetching around £700,000 of the sale price.

By a twist of fate, both DMG and Bauer were major customers of Polestar, which pre-packaged six years ago almost to the day, before its eventual collapse.

Unite regional manager Darren Rushworth said the union had been trying to have a meaningful dialogue with the YM board for some time and was seeking clarification on the group’s financial situation and future plans.

“When you’re in trouble, you need everyone’s help, but they don’t engage,” he said.

“I sent another email [to the board] last night demanding that they give us an update on where they stand.

“The temps, who they rely on, were sent home from Chantry last night. They are so skinny they have to cut plates. It’s an absolute shambles at this point.

In its most recent accounts, for the year ending 31 May 2020, YM Group had sales of £114.8m and recorded a pre-tax loss of £8.3m. sterling, up from £6.1 million the previous year. The accounts also included a note of “material uncertainty” from administrators regarding projected new business growth and expected contract wins in its traditional web clearing market.

At the time, it employed around 817 people.

Group accounts as of May 31, 2021 were originally due to be filed by February 28, but YM has agreed a three-month extension with Companies House and the new filing deadline is May 28.

The firm was also due to renew its £17million bill financing facility with Barclays last month, while repayment of £19million of senior notes due to Pricoa, which had been pushed back by a year, should be repaid in September.

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