Historic papermaker Portals announces departure from Overton Mill

A HISTORIC papermaker has announced that it will end its business in Overton before leaving the village as its banknote printing contract has come to an end.

Portals, which has been printing banknotes and security paper for over 300 years, opened its Overton Mill site in 1922.

Its biggest contract has been with De La Rue, based in Basingstoke, which designs and prints banknotes, for which it produces the paper.

However, the company has now said that due to rising costs and the continued effects of the pandemic, its business in Overton is “no longer viable”.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Portals said: “Following the global pandemic and other recent global events, however, we have seen a significant negative impact on our banknote paper business.

“It is also clear that the change in strategy of our largest customer, De La Rue plc, and the rising costs of inputs, particularly energy, all against the backdrop of the highly competitive banknote paper market bank on which we operate, means that our banknote paper business in Overton is no longer viable.

SEE ALSO: Portal Papers sees layoffs as ‘more competitive’

They continued: “In trying to cope with this very difficult environment, we considered a range of strategic options. It is therefore with deep regret that we have today announced our proposal for the orderly closure of the operations of our paper mill in Overton, Hampshire.

“Portals has a strong and proud heritage and we intend to end Overton’s operations in an orderly manner with the least disruption possible – ensuring that all obligations to our customers, employees, suppliers and creditors are met.

“The orderly closure of Overton will then allow Portals to focus fully on the other thriving parts of its business: our paper mill in Bathford, Somerset, which focuses on the supply of high security papers, and our devices business. Security in Milan, Italy is not affected by this announcement.

The company said it wanted to thank its team for “their continued dedication and hard work”, adding, “The coming months will be challenging in many ways and we will continue to do our best to maximize the prospects for all of our stakeholders”.

In 2018, Portals Secure was separated from De La Rue, with a contract in place that the printing relationship would continue, but the announcement of the departure comes with the termination of that contract.

Clive Vacher, CEO of De La Rue, added: “This settlement is another important step in our plans for De La Rue to become a stronger, cash-generating business, and in addressing the legacy issues still present in the company. . This allows us to exit a deal that had more than five years to run, which would have cost the business around £119m over that period in fixed costs, profit contribution and deficit payments. in volume, and which has harmed our competitiveness.

“We are grateful for the long and productive relationship that De La Rue has had with Portals, which spans decades.”

SEE ALSO: Basingstoke-based De La Rue secures extended printing license

Reacting to the news, Overton MP Kit Malthouse said: “It is a devastating blow to Overton, Whitchurch and the surrounding area where the history and livelihoods of so many families are tied to 300 years of history of Portals.

“Over the past two years I have been in close contact with the company as it struggled with foreign competition and rising energy costs, and at all times it was evident that management had a strong sense of duty to its workers. Unfortunately the future operation of the Overton plant now seems financially impossible, and an orderly liquidation, with generous severance pay and outplacement assistance, is of course preferable. I will liaise with union representatives and the workers themselves during the consultation to ensure they get all the help and assistance they need.

He continued: “Although the future of the plant site is now uncertain, given its location upstream of the Test, there will also be significant environmental concerns to be addressed. Management has assured me that she intended to do her possible duty in this regard, and I will of course follow their progress closely and liaise with the Environment Agency.

“This is a very sad day for North West Hampshire. I share the distress and will do all I can to help the community through this difficult chapter in our history.”

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