Grafenia offers coronavirus lifeline as it reaffirms acquisition strategy

Grafenia wants more regional hubs like the Nettl Business Superstore in Exeter

Grafenia has reminded sign and graphics businesses of its ongoing acquisition strategy as it looks to offer a lifeline to some of the industry’s companies that are struggling to stay afloat amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement issued today (17 March), the publicly listed Manchester-headquartered print, online, and signage business said it is looking for established sign and graphics businesses who wish to roll their business into the Grafenia network.

The group is prioritising its search for larger sign and graphics businesses, with turnover over £2m, which could act as regional hubs to support the local Nettl network. There’s an existing regional hub in the North West and preferred locations for remaining regional hubs would be the Midlands, South West, South East and Central Scotland.

Since Grafenia embarked on its acquisition strategy, it has brought six businesses into the group. It combined four of those businesses to create two Nettl Business Superstores in Liverpool and Exeter, as well as developing a centralised sign and display hub in Manchester. Last summer, it raised £4m to begin plans to establish four regional sign hubs.

Chief executive Peter Gunning said there was “increased safety” being part of a larger group and stressed that Grafenia has access to capital to execute its strategy and “can move quickly to help otherwise sustainable businesses who’ve been impacted by recent events”.

He told Printweek: “In the sign sector, January and February are always difficult months and you come out of those hoping for a good March, April, May, which is when a lot of the events are.

“We’re seeing lots of cancellations of events. There’s still lots [of work] going ahead, and people are displacing their work, but it’s a deeply difficult time for a lot of businesses.

“The message is, we are still looking for these potential sign hubs. Maybe people who weren’t previously thinking of selling, maybe people who might have been thinking they would have another five or 10 years of running the business.

“We want to talk to businesses of that target size who are probably decent businesses but have maybe been impacted by some short-term cashflow, and see whether we can roll them into Grafenia in a way that saves the business.”