A 130-YEAR-OLD Lothians printing firm has collapsed, leaving 54 workers redundant.
Stewarts of Edinburgh called in the administrators just weeks before Christmas.
It is understood the company had run into difficulties because of a huge hole in its pension fund.
Established in 1879, Stewarts provided high-quality printing services and had an annual turnover of around £6 million.
Graham Frost and Bruce Cartwright of PwC were appointed joint administrators on Tuesday. Mr Frost said: “It is always a great pity to see a long-standing Scottish business go into administration.
“The directors had tried to restructure the business and its funding and while they had made good progress in the operating business, they were unable to find a solution for their major creditors.
“The directors also sought to market the business as a going concern prior to our appointment but unfortunately no buyer came forward.”
Managing director Terry O’Hare said the company had been working to resolve an “unsustainable heritage” pension scheme since a buy-out in 2004, and was disappointed that despite their efforts they had been unable to agree a deal.
“I’m devastated for the staff, as it’s just so hard for them,” he said. “It is a difficult time for the industry, and I think it is only going to get tougher.”
Founded in 1879, Stewarts was the first UK printing firm to create colour picture postcards, in 1894.
Kevin Borgers, a spokesman for one of the firm’s suppliers, Caledonian Envelopes, said: “Stewarts had problems with funding a huge hole in their pension fund, which I believe was causing problems.
“As far as I understand, they had been trading profitably.
“We were aware of the issues surrounding the pension fund, but we were happy with the assurances we were given.
“It’s a great shame that such a great business has gone, particularly after all these years.”
The firm was set up by George Stewart, then a worker at rival printing firm Waterston’s & Sons.
After moving from George Street, Stewarts operated from a base in Marionville Road for many years.
In 2007, the company moved to new premises in Livingston.
West Lothian Council’s executive councillor for transport and development, Martyn Day, said: “We are extremely disappointed to learn Stewarts of Edinburgh has gone into administration.
“My sympathies lie with all those affected by the job losses.”
Stewarts took over the office supplies arm of Waterston’s & Sons when the company fell into financial difficulties in 2003.
In 2009, Stewarts suffered a loss after snapping up another rival – Summerhall. The firm was forced to put its new acquisition into liquidation just days later after uncovering “irregularities” in Summerhall’s books.
No one from Stewarts was available to comment.