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Thursday, July 9, 1998 Published at 12:14 GMT 13:14 UK

Business: The Company File

Hallmark buys UK rival

Britons buy more cards per head than any other country

Hallmark Cards, the world's biggest greeting cards company has bought UK rival Creative Publishing for 188m.

The privately-owned US giant is bolstering its presence in the lucrative UK market where more cards are bought per person than anywhere else in the world.

Hallmark has promised that the 2,000 staff at the UK company, which is based at Bradford, will be "fully safeguarded".

Hallmark has two sites in Bath and others at Henley, Tewkesbury and Bedford.

[ image: Hallmark has stressed UK jobs will be safeguarded]
Hallmark has stressed UK jobs will be safeguarded
Hallmark Cards Holdings managing director Homer Kay said: "This is an acquisition about growth, its an acquisition about complement.

"It's not in any way slash and burn. It's about growth and better opportunities for both of the companies.

"Hallmark brings quality products, respected characters like 'Forever Friends' as a Hallmark brand, while Creative Publishing brings a particular strength in the seasonal and boxed product segment of the market place along with a very high quality manufacturing operation that we do not have."

Creative Publishing, which was demerged from greeting cards and mail order group Fine Art Developments last year is being sold for 233p per share.

This represents a 37.5% premium to Wednesday's closing price of 169.5p.

Creative Publishing's chief executive Matthew Sharp, finance director Keith Brown and associate director of operations Richard Campbell will be invited to join the board of Hallmark Cards.

Creative Publishing made an annual pre-tax profit of 5.2m last year, down from 13.6m.

The firm said trading prospects were encouraging with Christmas orders "comfortably ahead" of last year.

Chairman Keith Chapman said: "The cash offer to be made by Hallmark Cards UK reflects the strength of Creative Publishing's business and the opportunities that it brings to Hallmark Cards UK."

Hallmark said it had been considering the possibility of buying Creative Publishing since the beginning of the year.

The companies began discussions over the course of "several weeks" before announcing the recommended cash offer.

Global empire

Creative Publishing makes a range of gift wrapping, decorative accessories such as bows and tags, Christmas crackers and small gifts for major UK retailers like Marks & Spencer and John Lewis.

Hallmark, which had sales of more than $3.6bn (2.25bn) is behind products such as Crayola and card favourites Forever Friends, Country Companions, Harbottle and Peanuts which includes Snoopy and Charlie Brown.

Founded in 1910, it employs 20,100 full-time employees worldwide and publishes cards in 30 languages and distributes them to 100 countries.

Based in Kansas City, Missouri, the company distributes its products to 40,500 shops in the US.

Hallmark also has the second largest speciality retail network in the US with 4,800 Hallmark Cards Gold Crown dealers based in department stores or malls.

Its subsidiaries include Hallmark Entertainment which is responsible for TV programming and licenses motion pictures for home video distribution such as Gulliver's Travels and Merlin.

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