Putting its properties to work

Following New England Business Service’s (NEBS) year-and-a-half acquisition spree, which resulted in the purchase of a total of four catalogs, and culminated with the May acquisition of $63 million check printer/ marketer McBee Systems of Canada, NEBS plans to focus on leveraging its assorted business forms, packaging and paper products catalog businesses.

“Now, it’s more of us keeping an eye on acquisition opportunities than actively pursuing any more of them,” says NEBS vice president/treasurer/ secretary Timothy Althof. “We want to make sure we make the best of our four recent acquisitions and make them work together.”

Specifically, the $460 million-plus NEBS is busily integrating not only McBee, but also its January 1997 acquisition of London-based Standard Forms, an $8 million cataloger of printed forms for small automotive dealers; its March 1997 purchase of $50 million packaging supplies mailer Chiswick Trading; and its December ’97 acquisition of $80 million business forms mailer Rapidforms-all of which specialize in serving small companies (20 employees or less).

“We’re not planning to collapse a lot of facilities” in an effort to consolidate NEBS’s acquisitions, Althof says. “There are some natural economies of scale we’ll gain. And we’re already sharing lists in cases where our companies aren’t competitors. For instance, Chiswick has had very strong response from NEBS customers.”

Cross-marketing opportunities As investment analyst Martin McDevitt Jr., managing director of the Milwaukee-based firm Cleary Gull Reiland & McDevitt, sees it, “NEBS will do a lot of cross-marketing between the different product lines,” such as Chiswick and NEBS products and NEBS and Rapidforms items. “And now McBee with its checks and check writing systems will make NEBS a big player in checks, which is still a growing industry.”

Moreover, McDevitt believes it won’t be long before the marketer once again revs up its aggressive search for acquisitions. “My sense is that over the next nine months to a year, NEBS won’t do anything,” he says. “But beyond that, the company could make some more acquisitions. NEBS’s market is small businesses, and it’s going to continue looking for firms that serve small business in different ways. All in all, I see NEBS ultimately becoming the preeminent supplier to small business in the U.S. and Canada; the Street is going to continue to look upon NEBS as a growth company.”

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