Bertrams sold to Smiths News

Smiths News has bought Bertrams|THE, bringing to an end the wholesaler's four-month search for a new suitor. The total transaction value of the takeover is £8.6m for the business, which had sales in 2008 of £122.5m.

The news will come as a huge relief to all sides of the book trade. Ian Hudson, president of the Publishers Association, said publishers were "delighted": debts will be repaid in full over the next four months, with the aim of returning stock availability to "pre-crisis norms". Tim Hely Hutchinson, group chief executive of Hachette UK, said: "My colleagues and I warmly welcome today’s announcement that Bertram has been acquired by Smiths News. I am personally delighted at the prospect of working again with my much-respected former colleagues from Smiths News."

Michael Neil, group m.d. of Bertram, said: "This is a great opportunity for Bertram. We are looking forward to being part of the Smiths News group with its strong and stable financial base. The Bertram business neatly complements Smiths News' areas of commercial interest."

In an announcement to the City, Smiths News said that about £7m of working capital would be injected into the wholesaler by the end of August "to increase stock availability and thereby customer service". Smiths News PLC was created when it split away from the W H Smith Group on 1st September 2006: like WHS it dates its origins back to 1792. It had annual sales in 2008 of £1.2bn.

Hudson said: "Publishers are delighted that Smiths News has acquired Bertrams and that they have a firm commitment to the future development of the company. Bertram's customers can once again trade with them in the confidence of knowing that the prospects for the company are bright and that Bertrams service levels will soon return to pre-crisis levels."

Mark Cashmore, c.e.o. of Smiths News, said: "We believe this represents an excellent strategic opportunity for Smiths News to broaden our business and to utilise further our specialist distribution skill set in the UK. We believe Smiths News is extremely well placed to move Bertram's business forward and capitalise on a number of exciting opportunities."

Bertrams|THE had been trading with the top five publishers on a pro-forma basis following Woolworths going into administration. Hudson said that publishers and distributors would be working closely with Bertrams|THE to return availability to "pre-crisis norms". He added: "Enormous credit must go to Michael Neil and his team for delivering Bertrams into new ownership."

For the year ended 3 February 2008, Bertram reported revenue of £122.5m, earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of £4.5m and profit before tax of £2.6m. The value of the gross assets being acquired by Smiths News is £23.9m.

Woolworths Group placed its wholesaler EUK and retail business into administration on 29th November. The business had failed to find a buyer for its retail wing. Bertrams|THE had a separate banking facility to Woolworths and therefore was not liable for the debt owed by its parent company and did not go into administration.