to roll out in Australia by end of the month

Chief executive Tony Rafferty (pictured) told ProPrint that he had granted the option to former Worldwide Online Printing WA master franchiser John Stangeland.

“We told the stock market two years ago we had granted an option [to Australia] over the period of August to Oct 2008 – that was the period the world changed. The economy tightened. Matters didn’t progress,” said Rafferty.

He said had remained “very, very positive about entering the Australian market”, following its move into New Zealand back in June 2006.

Rafferty would not be drawn on rumours that had made a bid for Worldwide Online Printing, currently in administration with McGrath Nicol, but admitted he had wanted to buy Worldwide two years ago.

He said: “I understand the models. I have routinely met with Worldwide franchisees over the past four years. I employ former Worldwide staff who are now based in London. I hear it from the horse’s mouth about the challenges. It’s a very similar business to”

Rafferty added that one of his employees in the UK, who used to work at Worldwide, explained that the model is a lot like Worldwide, “but our systems work”.

Stangeland told ProPrint the initial roll-out would have an “East Coast focus”.

He would not reveal specifics of the print supplier, but said: “In terms of manufacturing and production, it will most likely be Sydney-centric – it’s better for servicing Brisbane and Melbourne.”

Stangeland runs Mediation Specialists Queensland, based on the Gold Coast, and administration would remain in that area.

He added that the deal was still “in the embryonic stage. We have to complete a fairly heavy load of documentation. I’ve established a relationship with a national trade printer, who I can’t disclose. We’re rolling forward with a view to getting things going in June.”

Stangeland said he had approached to strike up the deal. “I keep a fairly keen interest on the key developments around the world. I noted that was enjoying success.”

The news comes as announced a 17.4% fall in pre-tax profit to £1.7m ($3m) in its preliminary results for the year ending 31 March 2010.

Rafferty told ProPrint‘s UK sister title, PrintWeek, that the 12-month period had been “two halves of dire trading” and said that, while turnover was flat at around £14.5m, profits had fallen due to the company doing more work for the same price.

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