Fairfax selling print sites for $55m

Fairfax will sell its two metro printing plants for $55m to property group Charter Hall after shutting them down last year.

The figure is lower than the $70m the company had been hoping to get and far less than the more than $600m it spent to build and upgrade them.

Charter Hall is reportedly in the due diligence phase with the deal to close in the near future.

Melbourne’s 24,000sqm Tullamarine site, built for $220m in 2006, will reportedly sell for less than $20m after two potential $25m deals with data companies ADX Management and White Data fell through last year.

The figure for the 37,600sqm Chullora plant in Sydney is not known exactly but with the whole deal being about $55m it will fetch at least $35m.

Chullora cost $315m to build in 1996 and another $70m to upgrade in 2001. Fairfax was asking $50m for it a year ago but a buyer had not been rumoured until now.

[Related: Newspapers in flux]

Closing the two sites a years ago put about 400 staff out of work and saw presses either sold, scrapped or moved to upgraded regional facilities in Richmond, NSW and Ballarat, Vic.

The regional sites were extended to accommodate the increased print volumes and equipment upgrades, and complemented with new kit including a $30m, three-year contract with Fujifilm to provide plates and new CTP equipment.

Fairfax printing and distribution group director Bob Lockley said last year the plant closures were a result of declining print volumes resulting from plummeting circulation.

“The plants were great in their day but are now not being fully utilised, so we need to rationalise our operations,” he says.

Circulation for Fairfax newspapers has continued to slide, with the Sydney Morning Herald’s weekday copies falling 13 per cent last year to just 115,000, and the Sunday edition down 14 per cent. The Age is even worse, falling 18.3 per cent to 106,843 on weekdays.

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