PrintWeek understands there are about 15 banks involved in the current negotiations. The group’s main bankers are BNP Paribas and RBS.

Just over three-and-a-half years ago the pan-European book printing group breached its banking covenants and subsequently reduced its debt pile from €400m (£344m) to €123m, in a deal that resulted in its banking consortium also becoming the main shareholders in the business.

Tough trading conditions are behind the moves to restructure the debt again.

“It’s a long and complex process but it is going as planned and we are very confident about the future for the company,” marketing director Anthony Morin told PrintWeek. “This is not a catastrophic scenario. We know we will find a solution and a positive outcome.”

The group, Europe’s largest printer of monochrome books, has sales of around €450m.

“Market conditions are pretty harsh across Europe and that is taking a toll on volumes and pricing,” Morin added.

CPI prints around 500m books a year.

In the UK the company’s operations – Mackays, Antony Rowe, CPI Colour, Cox & Wyman and William Clowes – place it among the top 20 biggest printers in the country, with sales of £117.4m.

The group is headquartered in France, where it has four factories, and its home market has proved particularly challenging, according to book industry insiders.

An informed source said: “The fundamental problem is they are not generating enough cash to service the debt. They have a French HQ and a big French bank is involved, so it’s a political problem as much as a financial one.

“How do you go about restructuring it politically in France? If this was a UK business owned by private equity it would have been restructured with the saleable bits sold off by now.”

Morin said it wasn’t possible to put a timescale on the likely financial resolution. “We would like it to be as short as possible, but it’s complex and we can’t really tell when the discussions will end,” he said.

He also said CPI was profitable at a group level, and generating cash.

“It’s not putting pressure on our daily activities. Even if it takes time at a corporate level there is no impact on daily operations at a country level.”

CPI UK recently installed the UK’s first MGI JetVarnish 3D inkjet spot UV coater as part of a £20m investment programme.

It has invested heavily in ‘Quantum’ digital book production lines using HP T-series inkjet web technology.

The firm has printed a number of bestsellers, including last year’s runaway hit Fifty Shades of Grey.