Manama-based Investcorp has announced plans to buy two of the UK’s leading printing companies in separate deals which could total $900 million.

The investment group has made a $409 million cash bid for the public company Watmoughs, against a rival bid from Canada’s Quebecor valued at $308 million. Investcorp says it has already received a number of undertakings to accept its offer of £3.45 ($5.64) a share.

The company has also said that it is buying the privately owned British Printing Company (BPC) in a deal which is believed to value the company at $425 million-490 million.

The combined annual sales of the two printing companies total $916 million. Watmoughs made pre-tax profits of £21.6 million ($35.3 million) in 1997, while BPC made operating profits of £24.5 million ($40 million). Together the two companies account for about 20 per cent of the UK’s colour commercial printing market and more than 90 per cent of UK gravure capacity – a process used for long runs of quality printing. Analysts say this means that the deals could be referred to the UK’s Monopolies & Mergers Commission.

Investcorp says that it plans to merge the companies strategically but not legally. The deals are being handled by Investcorp subsidiary Webinvest. The London-based Lazard Freres & Compagnie is acting as adviser.