Printing firm jobs hang in balance

MATT NIPPERT
Last updated 09:40 23/02/2013

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More than 300 jobs are in danger as administrators at troubled printing firm Geon Group grapple with massive debts.

TransTasman printing firm Geon employs 1200 people across New Zealand and Australia, including more than 300 at sites in Wellington, Auckland and Napier.

Following meetings with the receivers yesterday, Geon staff were told of a desire to continue trading until a buyer is found.

Engineering, Printing & Manufacturing Union organiser Joe Gallagher, who attended the meeting, said there was a commitment staff would be paid next week.

"They want to sell it as a going concern, the main thing is they've asked for stability and commitment from staff. They're said they're preferred creditors, but we'll wait and see as to what that's worth," he said.

The company has become a corporate hot potato in recent months, with current owners US private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) and Allegro Funds acquiring $113 million of the company's distressed Bank of Scotland International debt for a reported $6m in October.

This was followed by KKR and Allegro taking full control from prior private equity owners Gresham Private Equity for a reported "nominal" sum. KKR and Allegro completed the transaction and appointed their own directors on February 8.

The company had been valued at $395m in 2007 when it was formed in the merger of Gresham- owned Pacific Print Group and listed company Promentum.

Less than two weeks after KKR and Allegro assumed full control, Geon directors Sandy Maier and Australian Jack Crumlin appointed voluntary administrators PPB Advisory, followed soon after by secured creditors - believed to be Geon owners KKR and Allegro - appointing McGrathNicol as receivers.

Voluntary administration is designed for a company to restructure itself for the benefit of all creditors, while receivership involves administrators working on behalf of secured debtholders.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported KKR and Allegro made an immediate offer to buy parts of Geon from the receiver.

Questions to McGrathNicol went unanswered before publication. Neither Maier nor Crumlin returned repeated calls concerning their decision to call in PPB only two weeks into their board roles.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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