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Financial fall-out from collapsed Headley Brothers

Following the demise of the Ashford-based Headley Brothers print outfit, news has emerged the holding company posted a £2.95m loss.

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The former site lies next to the M20 and contains a range of old and new buildings

The hit came when Lithecat Holdings, which had been Headley Brothers (Holdings), decided to write down the value of the print company’s various kit and equipment. Any potential liabilities at a lower than expected figure were also noted, when the firm split the print and property into two businesses.

Founded in 1881 by brothers Herbert and Burgess Headley to print paper bags, bill heads and circulars for Ashford businesses, the firm experienced problems during 2015 and was separated into two units a year later. Lithecat Holdings recorded the disposal of the print sector at the end of the 2014-2015 financial cycle. The Pitt and Carlton families owned the firm up until then and they retained a minority share in the company, leaving the managing director Simon Bingham with the controlling portion.

The print arm was acquired by Henry Stones of Banbury in Oxfordshire in March, and was rebranded as Stones Ashford – a move which left a substantial number of staff without a job. The property arm, consisting of the large site in the Kent town, was put on the market by Lithecat Holdings. If sold, it would offset the £2.75m loss. It would also mean that if a sale happens, the new printers would have a new landlord and the print outfit would live to fight another day.

The two companies have long established histories and are united by a common business culture

In a statement at the time, Henry Stones says: “Henry Stones Limited of Banbury, Oxfordshire, is excited to announce the recent acquisition of the continuing business of long-established, Kent-based printer Headley Brothers, on the 2nd March 2017, supported by funds advised by Thames Valley Capital ltd. The two companies have long established histories and are united by a common business culture.

“This acquisition to the group will combine Heat Set Web Offset, along with increased sheet fed/ Cut-Star capacity. The addition of the Ashford plant adds a significant geographical presence in the South East and is keenly placed to serve London and the continent.”

Clearly the site is a good location for serving London, the South East and the Continent, but cynics have also noted a large site adjacent to the M20 is valuable in its own right.

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