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South Island Printing Growth Boosted

27th January 2005

Fairfax And Ashburton Company Boost South Island Printing Growth Prospects Through Shareholding Agreement

Fairfax NZ Limited and the Ashburton Guardian Company Limited announced today they have signed an agreement which will grow business and further develop state-of-the-art printing and publishing in the central South Island region.

Fairfax has purchased a shareholding in Guardian Print Limited, a subsidiary company of Ashburton Guardian Company Limited. Guardian Print is a web offset printing facility producing the Ashburton Guardian daily newspaper and over 50 other publications for New Zealand publishers.

Fairfax NZ Chief Executive Officer, Brian Evans, and the proprietors of the Ashburton Guardian Company, Bruce and Cindy Bell, said in a joint statement that the move would ensure that the two main printing centres in the region, Ashburton and Timaru, combined efforts to capitalise on state-of-the-art printing facilities.

``Excellent facilities will give a major boost to opportunities for printing, and to the people of the region through growth. Our agreement also cements a relationship with the Ashburton Guardian Company Limited, and signals our commitment to the publication of first class newspapers in the Central South Island,’’ Brian Evans said. The investment is accompanied by combining the Fairfax NZ printing operation at the Timaru Herald with that of Guardian Print. Fairfax NZ titles printed in Timaru include the Timaru Herald, High Country Herald, Central Canterbury News and Sunday News; the printing of which will transfer to Ashburton in March 2005.

In other respects, the Timaru Herald and the weekly High Country Herald will continue to operate as at present.

The two companies’ sheet-fed commercial printing in the region will be carried out at Herald Print in Timaru.

The combining of the printing operations is seen as an exciting opportunity for both newspaper businesses, with further development of Ashburton’s central South Island printing plant the key objective.

“A well-resourced, technologically-advanced facility, with significantly greater utilisation, will benefit printing and advertising customers, and readers of our newspapers,’’ said Chris Jagusch, general manager Fairfax NZ Southern region. “The alternative was two printing plants nearby each other, which made it unlikely there would be the financial support to develop either to the extent now made possible.”

Customers will see improvements to the production of the Timaru newspapers, with more colour and better quality printing available.

Guardian Print has developed a modern printing facility over recent years. Installation of a single width press, with colour capacity on continuous pages, is well suited to the type of work both newspaper companies currently produce. The press is more suited to future enhancements than its Timaru counterpart. Guardian Print already operates a two shifts per day roster. This will expand to three shifts, including a Saturday night roster to produce the South Island edition of Sunday News.

More staff will be added to Guardian Print.

Bruce and Cindy Bell said: “This initiative takes us one step further in realising a state of the art facility operating 24 / 7 from our Ashburton site and serving the region with a business that will attract more and more opportunities. We will be able to better service the growth of existing customers through improved service and facilities. ’’

The Timaru Herald employs 99 permanent staff at offices in Timaru, Ashburton and Oamaru. Eight printing and operations staff will be affected by this merger as well as non-permanent publishing employees employed on a casual basis. Employees are being offered opportunities at the Ashburton plant and at Fairfax sites outside Timaru.

In other developments Fairfax NZ has recently announced the purchase and installation of an Atex Genesis system for the Timaru Herald. This is a computer system installed for advertising and editorial production of the Timaru Herald and High Country Herald. The project cost is $450,000 and the system is due to be operational in February 2005.

Brian Evans said: “These investments reflect a strong commitment to newspapers in the central South Island. The end result is a first class printing facility, and first class computer systems which will benefit readers, advertisers and staff of the Timaru Herald for many years to come.”

ENDS

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