Ocean Media Group’s chief executive has hit back at speculation that the company is being divided up or sold off following a bank takeover.
CEO Trevor Barratt told EN Ocean’s bank assumed control of shareholder equity in March to deal with longstanding issues over Ocean’s balance sheet. The decision arose from the need to tackle the debt owed by the exhibition and publishing company, which is more than its current business value.
EN understands the historic debt to the bank to be about £60m. It has its roots in the November 2007 acquisition of Ocean headed up by investment firm AAC Capital Partners for £104m. According to AAC Partners, Ocean’s turnover at the time was £27m.
Barratt claimed the deal was the right price at the time but admitted businesses are no longer selling at 10x or 12x turnover multiples.
“Our balance sheet is overleveraged and the bank has stepped in to take control of the business and restructure it,” Barratt explained. “This process has not yet been completed.
“The business is not being sold off or our assets broken up. We are a profitable business that has continued to grow even during the downturn. Events have been a very positive part of that and we have continued to grow our exhibitions and launch new shows.
“The area of our business that suffered the most has actually been print and the print recruitment advertising market.”
Barratt said the bank’s decision to step in has no impact on day-to-day operations or management structure across the exhibitions and publishing divisions. Ocean recently announced plans for a new Venue Show to run alongside its Event Production Show in 2012.
“Something needed to happen to deal with the issue. We have a good relationship with Anglo Irish Bank and I am confident this will be resolved in a way that helps our business get to a better place,” Barratt said. “It’s business as usual for us.”
Ocean’s exhibition MD James Brooks-Ward also viewed the bank’s intervention as a positive.
“The banks aren’t going to sell this business for peanuts,” he added. “This is all about retaining the value of the business long-term.”
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