Horton boss: Aussie market anticompetitive

Horton boss: Aussie market anticompetitive
Horton CEO says market stitched up, business confirmed to be pulling out of Australia

New Zealand owned contract newspaper printer Horton Media has confirmed it is pulling out of Australian printing, with its CEO citing an anticompetitive market.

The company is closing its only printing plant in the country, in Narangba, north of Brisbane. Its other printing site is located in Auckland.

Matthew Horton, CEO of Horton Media told ProPrint, “It is grossly anticompetitive here in this market, it is a disgrace. We have not seen interest from anyone else in changing it, so there is no point in sticking around.

“The Narangba plant is no longer profitable. Its prospects are no longer viable in the current environment. We are looking to deploy some of our equipment back to New Zealand and sell some of it off.

“We will be exiting out of Australia in terms of printing. We have developed some new media in preparation for this time, in digital publishing.

“It has been a foreseeable possibility for quite some time. We had the right presses and machines for the market, but our competitors had a massive overcapacity at large costs to our investors. It was poorly invested and run, and it destroyed our profitability.”

The company claims to be Australasia’s largest independent contract newspaper printer, and says it has a large range of international clients. Among the titles it printed in Queensland are the Sunshine Valley Gazette, Coolum Advertiser and Glasshouse Country News.

[Related: Horton closing down Aus print site]

How many staff work in printing within the Narangba plant is unclear, Horton himself said there are not a large number.

Horton says, “We have wonderful customers and even as we were closing, they were expressing their interest in continuing on with us, but even they have had a fall in volumes. It is a shame. I worry for some of them, they will have to print with their direct competitors, which was the situation before we arrived. Some of the printers have expressed that they are unwilling to do that.

 “The plant closure path is fairly well trodden in the sector. I can think of at least ten plant closures in the region.

“There is a relentless decrease in work over the years with an increase in pressure from employers on their staff.

“The business is profitable in NZ.”

Horton is privately held and managed by CEO Matthew Horton, while independent directors Geoff Cope and Dale Smith represent the firm’s board.

Five years ago it nabbed a $2.2m contract from Fairfax Regional Media for three Defence Force mastheads, following a $250,000 investment in its equipment, including a polywrapping and inserting line. In 2015 it continued the contract with a $490,000 one year extension. It has since held the contract with Department of Defence.

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