Smiths News – formerly Connect Group plc – secures £120m refinance

Financial Services | South East

Smiths News, previously Connect Group plc, has completed the refinance of £120m of existing loan facilities until 2023, whilst maintain an uninterrupted service to customers and communities across the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic.

After de-merging from WH Smiths in 2006, Smiths News has been the leading distributor and wholesaler of newspapers and magazines in the UK.  The group also operates DMD, a supplier of print media to airlines, and Instore, the point of sale merchandising and marketing specialists.

Despite the pressure of Covid-19 in 2020 the business remains well placed to deliver its go-forward strategy under the direction of CEO Jon Bunting, with this re-financing marking his first 12 months in role.  Shawbrook Bank, the specialist business lender, joined the syndicate of 6 lenders for the first time, providing both a term loan and revolving credit facility.

Jon Bunting, Chief Executive at Smiths News, says: “The support of our banks positively reflects the strength of our business and the vital role we play in serving thousands of communities throughout England and Wales. This agreement, together with the recent completion of all our major contract renewals, completes a year of considerable strategic progress which further enhances the resilience of our trading and business model.”

Tony Grace, Chief Finance Officer at Smiths News, says: “We’re pleased with the ongoing support and commitment of our lenders, not least with the addition of Shawbrook. On this re-financing they have proven to be professional, flexible and committed to the process throughout, demonstrating the value a specialist can bring despite being far smaller than the other names in the syndicate.”

The Company was advised on the refinancing by EY Capital & Debt Advisory and Herbert Smith Freehills.

Kelly Henney, Senior Director with Shawbrook’s Corporate Lending team, says: “Smiths News has an incredible heritage but is also a business looking to the future, with a relentless focus on delivering great customer service. We’re very happy to play a part in supporting the strategy that Jon, Tony and the team have set out, which echoes many of our own values. Whether sole lender or as a participant in a syndicate or club arrangement, we focus on delivering great customer outcomes by putting a genuine focus on service and efficient delivery – not of news, but of the specialist funding solutions we’re now known for.”

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