This week’s deals and whispers
B2B information. London-based private equity firm Lyceum Capital is rumoured to have hired advisers Raymond James to find a buyer for its AgriBriefing, the increasingly international B2B specialist which was formed in the UK with the 2012 acquisition of Farmers Guardian from UBM. AgriBriefing (formerly known as Briefing Media) was founded by Neil Thackray, Rory Brown and Rupert Levy, initially to publish in the media, farming and medical sectors. But their decision to focus exclusively on agribusiness has been justified by the rapid development of data services and the UK’s largest farming machinery exhibition. But Farmers Guardian remains at the core of a company which may now have revenues of some £25m and profits of at least £10m. It has long been the UK’s second agricultural news brand (behind RBI’s Farmers Weekly). But there’s no mistaking which has been the most adventurous for the past six years. Farmers Guardian’s fairly steady 31k weekly circulation is now 60% “members” who pay up to £199 (almost double the 2012 subscription price) for a neat package of offers including early access to classified ads, data services and insurance discounts. Like the acquisition of data services AgriMoney, Global Data Systems (a France-based business bought in 2018) and the US-based Urner Barry, it’s an approach that chimes with the move up the value chain (and away from advertising) that Neil Thackray espoused in the company’s media conferences before it lasered down onto food and farming. AgriBriefing now claims its revenue is 70% recurring (subscriptions) and 50% outside the UK. Its news, prices, insights and events are claimed to reach over 500,000 professionals in 20 countries. So, AgriBriefing really could fetch £150m – 15 x its value in 2012 and 6 x its value in 2015. If B2B media was the stuff of movies, Hollywood would be lining up to tell the story of an old-fashioned trade magazine publisher which became a high-value information provider in six short years.
Magazines. David Pecker’s American Media Inc is buying Bauer’s US celebrity weeklies In Touch, Life & Style and Closer (and nine teenage magazines) for a price believed to be $80m. The deal leaves Bauer’s once-dynamic 37-year-old New York business with just three ho-hum women’s magazines. That’s a significant pull-back by Bauer and means that AMI – which publishes the National Enquirer, Star magazine, OK!, US Weekly and several smaller supermarket tabloids – now sells more than 1m celebrity magazines every week, in addition to Shape and Men’s Fitness. It marks further consolidation in the churning US magazine market after the acquisition of Time Inc (by Meredith), Rodale (Hearst), Rolling Stone (Penske) and US Weekly and Men’s Journal (AMI). That’s almost $3.3bn spent on US magazines in little more than a year. And still to come is Meredith’s auction next month of Time, Fortune, Sports Illustrated and Money. Pecker’s supermarket weeklies are singular publishing. Their revenues depend on scandalous cover stories that persuade people to pick up and buy at the checkout: it’s clickbait in print. He now dominates this tabloid category but Meredith’s high-flying People remains the most profitable US magazine of all, with a larger circulation than all AMI’s weeklies combined – and a better class of gossip. But Pecker will intensify the chase. He is the one-time accountant who became a publisher after working with Peter Diamandis to acquire CBS’s specialist magazine portfolio (Woman’s Day, Car & Driver, Road and Track et al) for $650m in 1987. The portfolio was flipped to Hachette for $1bn a year later. It was a dealmaking masterclass for Pecker. But, for all the AMI thrills and spills of the past 20 years (including a $1bn bankruptcy in 2010, and Pecker’s front-line role in picking the racy covers that make and break screen stars and politicians), he may now be best known as a close friend of President Trump. This week, he was even called as a witness to the Mueller enquiry into the conduct of the 2016 presidential campaign. It is too ironic that Trump’s best buddy is himself the creator of so much fake news. National Enquirer readers don’t get to read much about those wild Trump stories of girls and pay-offs which are exercising the president’s lawyers. Trump should be red meat for the AMI tabloids but not a bit of it. Instead, he is treated to the kind of guff that – in the 1990s – Pecker weaved through his fawning Trump Style magazine. But David Pecker knows how to make money from magazines and – like, say, Richard Desmond in the UK this past 30 years – he can be relied upon to keep upstaging the old stagers of traditional media. For the endlessly-fascinating Bauer Media, though, the US sell-off marks a new decisiveness just as its revitalised management team is squeezing results from the turnround of high-priced magazine properties in the UK and Australia. It’s a fair bet that the €2bn family-owned German company – which never used to sell anything or retreat from anywhere – will soon quit the US altogether, to concentrate longterm in Europe and the AsiaPacific on its fast-growing radio, TV and streaming.
B2B information. The £1.7bn events and information group Ascential plc (Cannes Lions, WGSN, MediaLink, and Money 20/20) is buying the UK-based media-marketing data company WARC Ltd for an initial £19.5m plus deferred consideration of up to £4.5m in 2019. The deal is expected to complete on 2 July. WARC (formerly known as the World Advertising Research Center) is a global digital subscription business that helps brands, agencies and media platforms assess their effectiveness across all channels. Founded in 1985 by advertising guru Mike Waterson, the company offers advertising best practice, evidence and insights from the world’s leading brands and includes the Gunn Report ranking of effectiveness in advertising. The business employs some 90 people in London, Washington DC and Singapore and is said to have 1,200 customers globally. In the year to 31 March 2018, WARC had revenue of £10.8m (10% growth) and EBITDA of £2.2m. Ascential will combine WARC with Cannes Lions’ The Work, to form a digital subscription product of scale. It’s a good bolt-on deal for the UK-based ex EMAP company whose Cannes Lions (taking place this week) has been wobbling a bit. Could Ascential’s growing interest in all things media lead to an interest in the UK’s premier marketing media group Centaur – or in battered data group Ebiquity (see last week’s MediaDeals)?
B2B information. Europe-focused Bridgepoint private equity is buying the media it uses. It is to acquire a majority stake in PEI Media – a global provider of publications, data and business conferences on alternative asset class investment, named after its major brand Private Equity International. Details of the transaction have not announced, but the purchase price is rumoured to be £120m (some 18 x 2017 EBITDA of £6.5m). The £19m-revenue business is being acquired from its founders, management and minority equity shareholder, LDC. PEI was formed following a 2001 management buyout from Euromoney Institutional Investor plc. It has grown a diversified portfolio of alternative asset-focused publications, databases and events. Headquartered in London with offices in Hong Kong and New York, the company employs some 180 people and has clients in 80 countries. Its publications include PERE, Infrastructure Investor, Private Debt Investor, Private Equity International, Real Estate Capital, Private Funds Management, Agri Investor and Secondaries Investor. Its PEI 300 is an annual ranking of the “300 biggest private equity groups” worldwide based on how much capital they have raised for investment in the previous five years.
B2B information. Betaville are reporting that the Glass’s Guide of automotive prices is coming back to market, with its owner Autovista (formerly EurotaxGlass’s) being sold by Hayfin Capital. The rumoured price of £250m would be more than twice the annual revenue for the company whose Eurotax, Glass’s and Schwacke brands have digital-only services all over Europe. The UK-based company, whose CEO is Lindsey Roberts (ex Informa director) has changed private equity ownership three times in the past 10 years as a result of debt pressures and restructuring.
Magazines. Meredith’s second round auction for the sale of Sports Illustrated, Time, Fortune and Money draws to a close next week. Ari Emanuel’s William Morris Endeavor is said to be in the running to buy Sports Illustrated which (unlike the other Time Inc legends) is said to have made profits of some $13m last year. Meredith was once said to be looking for up to $200m for each of the magazines but is getting real now that due diligence is underway. Investment banker Michael Loeb is said to be looking at Fortune and Money – he is the son of the legendary magazine editor Marshall Loeb, who previously edited both of them. Other names in the frame include: Jay Penske at Penske Media, Jimmy Finkelstein, owner of The Hill, and Liam Lynch, of venture capital firm Studio VC. Is there a chance of a wild card bid for Time magazine, the ultimate media trophy? Jeff Bezos, Laurene Powell Jobs, and Warren Buffet, are you there?
Exhibitions. UBM (now part of Informa, the world’s largest exhibitions organiser) has acquired a 70% economic interest in the Shanghai International Franchise Exhibition (“SFE”) organised by Shanghai Exhibition-Conference Ltd (SEC) twice a year since 2005. SFE is one of the largest franchising events in China with 221 exhibitors with over 450 brands and 50,261 visitors in the spring 2018 event. SFE’s exhibitors are mainly in the food, beverage and retail sectors.
B2B information. Warburg Pincus agrees, to acquire Supplier Assessment Services, which provides third party pre-qualification and health and safety accreditation services in the UK, from Capita plc. Supplier Assessment Services includes the Constructionline and Acclaim portfolio of products and services. Terms not disclosed.
B2B information. Private-equity firm Genstar Capital have agreed to acquire DrillingInfo Holdings Inc., the Austin, Texas-based software, data and analytics business, from Insight Venture Partners for an undisclosed price. Insight will retain a significant minority stake in DrillingInfo which itself has made more than 10 acquisitions, including the purchases of GlobalView Software, Oil-Law Records Corp., DataGenic Ltd. and Pattern Recognition Technologies Inc. since CEO Jeff Hughes was appointed in March 2016. Its most recent deal was the acquisition of 1Derrick and PLS Inc.’s research and database business which focus on the oil and gas transaction market. DrillingInfo serves over 3,500 companies globally from its Austin, Texas, headquarters, has more than 675 employees, and claims to be the leading SAAS data and analytics company serving the oil & gas industry.
Broadcast-streaming. Disney upped its offer for the majority of 21st Century Fox by a massive $20bn to $71.3bn, significantly more than the $65bn rival offer from Comcast. Disney also moved from its original all-stock deal to one with nearly $36bn in cash. Most observers are predicting this is a knockout bid from Disney which, like Comcast and all other broadcasters, is hungry for the content, studio deals and platforms with which to get stuck into global streaming and rein in Netflix before it is too late. If Disney wins this battle, will Comcast (which once wanted just to buy the 40% Fox-owned Sky TV cable and satellite network in the UK, Germany and Italy) bid to acquire ITV, the UK’s largest free-to-air commercial network which also has an enviable production group. If Disney gets Fox/Sky and Comcast snares ITV, Brits will start to believe the dark media predictions that soon they will only be watching US programmes on US networks. The sideshow to watch is what will the Murdoch family do with the Fox News, Sports and US TV stations they will extract from 21st Century Fox when (either) deal goes through? Is a ‘New Fox’ merger with News Corp (which still has a lot of shareholders in common, a legacy of the post-phone hacking split with Fox) still the most likely outcome? So the Murdoch brothers will still have a sizeable, global family business…?
B2B information. Acuris, the 19-year-old fast-growing company (formerly owned by the Financial Times and previously known as MergerMarket and now 70% owned by BC Partners, 30% by Singapore’s GIC), is a leading provider of global M&A data and research. It was acquired by the FT for £100m in 2006, sold to BC for £380m in 2013 and was valued last year at £1bn in GIC’s 30% deal. Its acquisition of the SparkSpread energy industry M&A service seems a logical bolt-on but may represent a broadening of the Acuris strategy to cover some vertical sectors currently best served by specialist services. Terms not disclosed.
B2B Information. Farmer’s Business Network offers a data network, so members can access farm analytics and agronomic advice to support its online, digital, independent farm economy. where members can buy farm chemicals and seeds, obtain credit and financing as well as find buyers who want to buy directly from farmers. Nebraska-based AgriSecure helps promote more large-scale organic farms that produce corn and soybeans, the largest U.S. crops. Now, there’s an idea or two for AgriBriefing (see this week’s MediaDeals) Terms not disclosed.
B2C digital. Dating conglomerate Match Group, of Dallas, Texas, which owns 45 dating properties including Tinder, OkCupid, Match, and Plenty of Fish, has acquired a 51% stake in Hinge, an app that was designed to be a more welcoming antidote to Tinder in which users could only see those potential matches who shared a mutual Facebook friend. Hinge users can answer three questions about themselves, connect their accounts to Instagram, and also upload multiple photos, making the Hinge experience more like a full-fledged online dating site. The deal helps Match to err cover all bases. Terms not disclosed.
B2B information. Nasdaq-quoted TheStreet, Inc., a leading financial news and information company, has sold its RateWatch business for $33.5m to ratings group S&P Global. RateWatch, which is based in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, provides more than 4,200 bank and credit union clients with a deposit and loan rate database covering 100,000 locations and dating back 20 years. RateWatch has 60 employees and 2017 revenues of $7.7m. It was acquired by TheStreet in 2007.
News. The Wilson Times, a daily newspaper in Wilson, North Carolina, has acquired the Spring Hope Enterprise, a weekly community newspaper. The Spring Hope Enterprise provides local news coverage of Spring Hope, Bailey, Middlesex, and adjacent communities. Terms not disclosed.
B2B information. Dallas-based MedCareers Group, Inc., parent company of the online professional network Nurses Lounge, will acquire B2B e-commerce player The 4Less Corp., an e-commerce auto parts sales company that – in just three years – has grown into one of the largest online sellers of Jeep, Truck and SUV suspension systems and related accessories targeting direct-to-consumer and repair businesses, principally in the US. Its LiftKits service had first-year revenues of $2.4m in 2015, which grew to $6.8m last year.This year, revenues bare forecast to reach $9m. The model B2B service owes its success to easy-to-follow “how to” instructional videos filmed in their Las Vegas installation centre.
Magazines. Final bids for the legendary but loss-making former Time Inc magazines Time, Sports Illustrated, Fortune and Money are due in two weeks. Meredith Corp is said to be expecting up to $800m for the magazines, which are expected to be sold separately to prospective buyers including: sometime rivals Jay Penske (Variety+ Rolling Stone) and Jimmy Finkelstein (Hollywood Reporter+ The Hill) who are both believed to want Sports Illustrated and possibly Time or Money too. Other individual bidders are going for Money+ Fortune together or Time magazine alone, while several private equity firms are thought to be the only bidders for all four magazines together. But, since Meredith insiders have hinted that there are up to 10 separate bidders still in the race, there may be a number of trophy investors including Len Blavatnik and Ynon Kreiz who – like Edgar Bronfman and Rupert Murdoch – once bid for the whole of Time Inc. There seems plenty of scope for surprise bids and – perhaps – big disappointments on price.
Across the Atlantic, that’s also the expectation at the former Time Inc UK, where the company (now known as TI Media) is expected to focus strongly on its mass market and major brands (especially weeklies and TV listings) and sell-off the long tail of special interest magazines. But prospects for a quick deal with the resurgent Future Plc, the UK’s largest specialist mag-media company, seem to have collapsed. So the only recourse may be a piecemeal sale of at least 10 of the company’s 40 magazines.
TI Media may also have dropped out of the bidding for Dennis Publishing, the livewire company founded by the late Felix Dennis whose key brands include: The Week (US and UK), Buy-a-Car digital, AutoExpress, Evo and ComputerActive. The bidding may now be down to private equity firms and, from the ranks of media companies, perhaps only Hubert Burda Media. It is 18 months since the Munich-based publisher acquired the UK’s Immediate Media (publisher of the listings weekly Radio Times, Good Food, and Top Gear). The privately-owned, 115-year-old Burda has €2.7bn revenues (increased by 150% in the past 20 years), some 600 brands, with 185m users, 500m paying consumers and 12,000 employees in 20 markets around the world. It may be set to become the UK’s second largest magazine-media company. Context: How Meredith captured Time Inc
Broadcast-streaming. The $85.4bn bid by AT&T for Time Warner has been unconditionally approved by a federal court in Washington. This embarrassing defeat for the US Department of Justice (which opposed the deal) is expected to pave the way for a spate of mega-mergers in the USA (see Comcast story) as digital companies and broadcasters alike chase the content and outlets they will need in order to compete with Netflix in global streaming services. That’s why the vibrations from the AT&T-TimeWarner deal will be felt right across the TV world, starting in the UK where US investments are everywhere. Fox owns Sky, Viacom owns Channel 5, and Liberty Media owns Virgin Media. Liberty also has a 10% stake in ITV which itself is rumoured to be ready to buy a share in the BBC’s pay TV network UK TV, which is jointly owned by another US broadcaster – Discovery.
Broadcast-streaming. In the wake of approval of the AT&T bid for Time Warner, Comcast have wasted no time in tabling a higher than expected $65bn all-cash deal for 21st Century Fox. This offer is nearly $13bn higher than Disney’s $52.4 bn all-shares offer. Comcast has agreed to match Disney’s offer to pay a $2.5bn termination fee if the deal is blocked, and in addition will pay the $1.5bn fee that 21st Century Fox would owe to Disney if it walked away from their deal. Just to confuse matters, Comcast has already bid to acquire Sky TV (owned 40% by Fox). Comcast and Disney both want 21st Century Fox to spin-off to existing shareholders “New Fox”, which would retain 28 US TV stations, Fox Sports and the highly-profitable Fox News.
It is all yet another battle for the content libraries, studio deals and channels that will enable traditional broadcasters to chase down Netflix whose $8bn content budget in 2018 makes this no easy task. Disney’s plan for its own streaming network in 2019 is well-advanced though it had been assumed that it might instead relaunch the US domestic Hulu (which it will control if it buys Fox). But we might be more sure that – if Disney is outgunned by Comcast – it will go for Netflix itself and develop a multi-channel global streaming network which really might then become unstoppable. But it will be a long hot summer in broadcast-streaming deals and everything will be hard-fought. Seconds out, round two.
Events. London-based exhibition and conference organiser CloserStill Media has acquired a majority stake in the US-based Learning Conference from Masie Productions, for an undisclosed sum. The event, which attracts around 2,000 delegates and 40 sponsors focused on the use of technology in corporate training, was founded more than 10 years ago Elliott Masie, who is credited with coining the phrase “e-learning”. The JV between Masie and CloserStill is expected to lead to international diversification for the Learning brand. CloserStill is a fast-growing, much-awarded exhibitions business, focused on technology and healthcare. It operates almost 40 exhibitions in the UK, USA, France, Germany, Singapore and Hong Kong and including The Vet Show, The Pharmacy Show, The Dentistry Show, CloudExpo, DataCentre World, and Learning Technologies. It has annual revenues of some £40m and industry-best EBITDA margins of almost 50% and prodigious annual growth rates. The go-go company was created by media veteran Phil Soar, one-time CEO of the former Blenheim Exhibitions which soared in the 1990s before being acquired by UBM. CloserStill, (now part-owned by Inflexion private equity) is 10 years old and looking ready for a big deal – as buyer or seller. Context: Reed Exhibitions may be sold
Events. UBM (now owned by Informa, the world’s largest exhibition organiser) has acquired the annual healthcare exhibition ExpoMed from LiveMed in Mexico and Live Healthcare in Brazil from founders Dr. Vitor Assentuno and Dr. Raphael Gordilho. The terms of the transactions were not disclosed. ExpoMed, in Mexico City earlier this month, attracted 8,000 buyers and 342 exhibitors.
Events. UK-based Quartz Sequoia Events, organiser of Elevate, has announced the acquisition of Elite Sports and COPA from Prysm Group, extending its existing portfolio within sport, fitness and health. The shows claim a combined total of more than 8,000 visitors and 300 exhibitors. We couldn’t find a web site for Quartz Sequoia Events.
B2B information. The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority might block marketing and analytics consultancy Ebiquity’s proposed sale of its advertising intelligence division AdIntel to the $7bn-revenue Nielsen in a £26m cash deal announced in April. The £90m-revenue, London-quoted Ebiquity and Nielsen now have until 20 June to offer up remedies to the competition concerns. In the absence of appropriate remedies, the CMA will launch an in-depth phase 2 investigation, which might just put everyone off – especially since the proceeds would have all but paid-off Ebiquity’s £30m debt. It was that kind of sale. Recent musings by cashed-up Martin Sorrell about his ambitions for analytics and data could just point towards a bid for the £33m-market-cap Ebiquity, a clever company, albeit one which is too sub-scale to be spread across 90 countries. It claims to provide services to 80 of the top 100 global advertisers. But last year’s flat revenues were the latest wobble. The 21-year-old company’s CEO brushed away the fears with “We achieved important milestones on our multi-year transformational journey…. to become the preferred, independent advisor to marketers at world-leading brands. We have a clear, focussed and differentiated destination and are implementing the relevant changes.” Sorrell and anyone’s grandmother would have seen right through that flim-flam – as have investors who have halved Ebiquity’s share price in the past 12 months. Time for Sir Martin’s first post-WPP deal?
B2B information. WebMD Health Corp (owned by Internet Brands) has acquired New York-based, 50-year-old Jobson Healthcare Information, a provider of professional healthcare media whose print and digital brands include MD/alert, Pharm/alert, US Pharmacist, 20/20 Magazine, Review of Optometry, and Review of Ophthalmology. No financial terms were disclosed. The California-based Internet Brands (owned by investors KKR and Temasek) is an interesting B2C and B2B digital media-software company primarily focused on four verticals: health (Officite, DemandForce), automotive (Autodata, CarsDirect), legal (Nolo, Avvo) and travel (Fodor’s, WikiTravel, CruiseMates). But it also has a long-ish tail of digital brands outside this neat profile. Its consumer sites claim more than 250m users. The company was founded in 1998 as CarsDirect. com. It IPOd as Internet Brands in 2005, was acquired by Hellman & Friedman for $640m in 2010 and sold to KKR four years later for more than $1bn. It now employs some 5,000 people in 30 locations worldwide.
B2B information. LDC, the private equity arm of Lloyd’s Bank, is investing £31.8m for “a significant minority” shareholding in NBS, the commercial arm of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). NBS is a 40-year-old, market-leading provider of technology, content and data to the architectural, engineering and construction industries. Based in Newcastle, NBS employs more than 200 people and had a 2017 turnover of £20.5m. You have to assume that what RIBA described as “a fantastic deal” for its architect members is the first stage in an eventual sale of NBS.
Books. US publisher Grey House has acquired H.W. Wilson’s Sears List of Subject Headings from EBSCO Information Services after being responsible for the print editions for some years. Now in its 95th year of publication, Sears List of Subject Headings has served the needs of small and medium-sized libraries since 1923, suggesting subject headings and sub-headings to use when adding new titles to their collections. Terms not disclosed. EBSCO is the leading US provider of research databases, e-journals, magazine subscriptions, ebooks and discovery service for libraries.
Broadcast-streaming. Amazon has acquired rights to show 20 English Premier League (EPL) soccer matches in the UK for three years from 2019. The matches will be available “free” to Amazon Prime’s UK members (who pay £79 per year membership fee). EPL coverage in the UK is still dominated both by BT Sport and Sky TV (the cable/satellite network which originally soared on the back of its ground-breaking live coverage). But the departure of BT’s CEO Gavin Patterson may signal a pulling back from the telco’s so-expensive foray into live soccer. Arguably, it succeeded only in driving up the prices both for it and Sky. On the other hand, the Amazon deal signals a new era in which advertising-free streaming services increasingly compete with traditional broadcasters to screen live sport. It is assumed that this trend will accelerate during the next few years with the likely sale of the Fox-controlled Sky either to Disney or Comcast, both of which have medium-term ambitions to challenge Netflix as global streaming networks. Earlier this year, Amazon outbid Sky to win exclusive UK rights for men’s tennis world tour matches in a reported $40m deal. And, in the US, it is paying the NFL $130m to screen American football matches on Thursday nights for the next two seasons. The scale of these deals and their traditional significance to broadcast audiences seem certain to hasten the tipping point for online viewing. We should expect Netflix too to start spending some of their huge content budgets on live sports. It’s premature to call the end of live sport on network television, but these streaming contracts will further drag down broadcast audiences – and advertising revenue.
Broadcast-streaming. The Comcast bid has been waved through by the UK regulat0r, and Fox’s offer to sell Sky News to Disney has been deemed sufficient to address Murdoch issues around media plurality involved in a Fox acquisition of the 60% of Sky it does not already own. This paves the way for a bidding war. Fox’s current bid of £10.75 a share values Sky at £18.5bn, while Comcast has tabled a competing offer of £22bn. But, then, there’s the larger game of bidding for the 21st Century Fox parent. Will the ultimate winner be Disney (cool with US regulators) or Comcast (more problematic)? You may be bit confused by the permutations e.g. if Disney wins, the Murdoch family not only bags $60bn of shares but keeps the highly-profitable Fox News and Fox Sports. You should settle for the certainty that – by end-2018 – Fox and and Sky will be committed to new ownership, possibly separately, but most likely together. And the brand of Disney’s planned Netflix killer for 2019 will be either Sky, or Hulu (which it would control if it buys Fox, or Disney itself. It will be a long hot summer.
B2C Digital. German-based legal-tech company Anwalt.de Services AG (which acts as a mediator for clients seeking legal advice and lawyers offering their services) is acquiring FragRobin, an online platform that advises consumers on family, employment, tenancy and consumer law issues, informs about legal claims and automatically supports them in their search for the right lawyer.
B2B information. New York-based Dataminr, a startup that analyzes public data about events in real time, has raised $221m in new funding. The company analyzes data using AI and machine learning in order to discover events and breaking information “long before it’s in the news” for clients in 70 countries across sectors including corporate security, finance, government and PR. Dataminr previously raised around $180m, including a $130m round led by Fidelity in 2015. Other shareholders include IVP, Venrock, Wellington Management and Goldman Sachs.
Education. The US-based 2U public ed-tech company that partners with leading non-profit colleges and universities to offer online degree programs, has raised an acquisition war chest of $331m, which it will use to build on its acquisition of GetSmarter, which it acquired for $103m in 2017. The company, which supplies partner universities with a cloud-based software platform and coursework design, has revenues of c$290m but is still loss-making. 2U was founded in 2008 by John Katzman (founder of The Princeton Review) and CEO Chip Paucek (former CEO of Hooked on Phonics).
Magazine-media. Bauer Media Australia has acquired Inside Out, Country Style and HomeLife from News Corp Australia to add to its portfolio of homes brands, Real Living, Australian House & Garden, Belle and Homes to Love. Terms were not disclosed. News Corp’s remaining magazine-media interests in Australia are largely centred on food. The deal represents a modest return to portfolio growth for Bauer which acquired the former ACP Magazines from CVC private equity for some A$500m in 2012. Bauer had a turbulent time wrestling with losses and magazine closures. But what remains Australia’s largest magazine-media group has settled down under the steadying hand of Paul Dykzeul, Bauer’s fifth Sydney-based CEO in six years. Bauer Media Australia is a subsidiary of a fifth generation, Hamburg family-owned business which owns more than 600 magazines and 100 radio and TV stations in 17 countries. In 2016, it had a global turnover of €2.2bn.
Magazine-media. The UK’s Haymarket Media Group has announced the sale of Stuff magazine to the privately-owned, £20m-revenue Kelsey Media. The deal follows Haymarket’s sale of What Hi-Fi?, FourFourTwo, Practical Caravan and Practical Motorhome to Future earlier in May. The divestments seem to represent the continuing portfolio rationalisation of the privately-owned, magazine-centric Haymarket after its 2016 financial rehabilitation, courtesy of a major property divestment. The company had revenues of £90m in 2016-17.
News. Groupe Lexis Média inc. has acquired L’Avantage votre journal (Rimouski), L’Avantage Gaspésien (Matane) and L’Avant-Poste (Amqui) from Canada’s largest printer TC Transcontinental. This adds to the sale of 12 earlier titles completed in late 2017. Terms not disclosed.
News. Long-established UK regional news group Iliffe Media is set to acquire the Newark Advertiser and its associated website and publications, including the Newark Trader, based in Newark, Nottinghamshire. Iliffe, which publishes the award-winning Cambridge Independent, is a serial consolidator, having acquired 13 titles from the strapped Johnston Press, and the whole of KM Media Group in 2017. It previously sold off its core regional newspaper group to the DMGT-led Local World, now owned by Reach Plc (former Trinity Mirror) which itself is busy digesting the Express newspapers (and OK! magazine) bought from Richard Desmond’s Northern & Shell. A lot of UK newspaper activity but still nothing of the private equity gold rush underway in the US. Perhaps that’s coming.
B2B information. Vora Ventures, a US-based private equity firm specializing in building B2B information technology companies, today announced that it has acquired ShakeDeal, the Indian B2B marketplace for sourcing industrial goods and raw materials. Terms not disclosed.
B2B information. Warburg Pincus private equity has acquired a controlling stake in Reorg Research, a bankruptcy analysis and deal intelligence start-up. The deal is rumoured to value Reorg — which expects 2018 operating profit of some $20m — at between $375m to $400m. In just five years, the privately-owned, US-based Reorg Research has become a leading information provider on distressed debt and leveraged finance. It’s a clever mix of tech that scrapes legal filings along with analysis and original reporting from a 100-strong team of journalists, former lawyers and bankers in the US and UK. Reorg publishes 50-100 articles per day, and has nearly 500 subscribers who pay annual fees averaging some $100k to learn what their experts find online or by working the phones. Research data is hot. The Reorg deal coincides with the Hearst-owned Fitch Group’s acquisition of Fulcrum Financial Data, a rival distressed-debt service (in MediaDeals this week). In 2017, BC Partners sold a 30% stake in the 18-year-old Acuris, publisher of Debtwire and Mergermarket, for almost the same as the £380m price it had paid Pearson for the whole company just three years before. Blackstone private equity is currently buying a 55% stake in Thomson Reuters Financial & Risk for $17bn in a deal which will split the news service from the financial and risk business which had been brought together in the 2008 merger of Reuters and Thomson Corp.
B2B information. The UK-based, privately owned CRU Group has acquired the 10-year-old US-based Steel Market Update Steel Summit conference (which last year had 600 attendees), training and newsletter business. Terms have not been disclosed. The £28m-revenue, 49-year-old CRU provides global economic research, consultancy and events for customers in mining, metals and fertiliser commodities. It is a key provider of steel analysis and prices. CRU has offices in the UK, US, Chile, China, Singapore, Japan, India, Brazil and Australia
B2B information. The Hearst-owned Fitch Group has agreed to acquire Fulcrum Financial Data, a provider of leveraged finance and distressed debt analysis, news and data, from the tech-specialist private equity firm Leeds Equity Partners. Fulcrum’s products include: Covenant Review, LevFin Insights, CapitalStructure and PacerMonitor. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, and completion is subject to regulatory approval. Fitch issues grades on bonds and other assets based on their credit risk. It is one of the big three credit-ratings firms, along with S&P and Moody’s. But it now generates more than 20% of its revenue from outside the ratings business, including the provision of fixed-income products and services to the global financial community. Fitch is the largest profit-maker in Hearst Corp which became the sole owner this year by buying the remaining 20% stake for $2.8bn from financial-services company Fimalac SA. Hearst, which bought its original interest in Fitch in 2006, increased its holdings to 80% in 2015. Although best known for its magazines and newspapers, Hearst Corp’s profits are increasingly derived from its growing business and professional digital media in healthcare, automotive – and finance.
Advertising. It’s only weeks since the resignation of Sir Martin Sorrell from WPP, the world’s largest marketing services company he created 33 years ago. Sorrell is investing £40m of his own cash in the reverse takeover of a UK quoted shell company called Derriston, which he promises to turn into “a new multinational communications services business”. The stunning comeback is said to be supported by Schroders, Toscafund, Lombard Odier, Milton and RIT Capital Partners, which are believed to have committed an initial £150m for acquisitions. The company is being renamed S4 Capital but there are few clues about its strategy beyond the assertion that “There are significant opportunities for development in technology, data and content.” WPP’s longterm success was based on offering a wide range of high-quality but separate marketing services under the one roof. But that approach has increasingly been under attack from new-wave startups, large consultancy firms like Accenture, and cost-conscious clients who want to be much more involved in marketing. The digital disruption of traditional media has complicated everything for the advertisers who have been funding it. The UK advertising news brand Campaign took a neat swipe at this week’s news: “Whatever one might say (and people have) about his legacy, he is an astute businessman – arguably the most accomplished of his generation (there is a delicious irony for those who tried to leave WPP during Sorrell’s reign that he himself left without a non-compete agreement in place). All of which suggests it’d be foolish to bet against him. Whether he is capable of reinvention is another matter.” We can safely assume two things about S4: its first M&A will come quickly; and the company will be anything but a re-creation of WPP, perhaps more of a consultancy. Might Sorrell even be exploring some kind of virtual group of collaborating businesses, a federal structure with which to attack companies like – WPP? The man who transformed the global advertising business has never believed in standing still. Just wait.
News. The Nasdaq quoted, Chicago-based media company Tronc Inc. (formerly known as Tribune Publishing) has acquired Virginian-Pilot Media, which publishes Virginia’s largest daily newspaper, for $34m in cash. The acquisition, from Landmark Media Enterprises, includes The Virginian-Pilot, PilotOnline.com and Pilot Targeted Media. The newspaper serves communities including Norfolk and Virginia Beach, the state’s largest city. Tronc’s other daily news brands include some of America’s best known, notably the Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News, the Baltimore Sun and the San Diego Union-Tribune. Before the Virginian-Pilot deal, Tronc acquired BestReviews. com but failed to net the Palm Beach Post and Palm Beach Daily News, which were bought from Cox by Gatehouse Media for $49m. But Tronc is both a buyer and seller of major news brands. Next week, the company’s one-time vice chairman is expected finally to complete his much-delayed $600m acquisition of the Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union-Tribune. No wonder observers are confused about the company’s strategy in the two years since Tribune became Tronc. That’s why many are predicting that it’s only a matter of time before Tronc itself is sold.
News. Freeman Webb Co, a privately-owned Nashville real estate company, has purchased the alt-weekly Nashville Scene and its sister publications, the Nashville Post and nFocus. The deal ends months of speculation over the future of the SouthComm Inc publications. Transaction terms were not disclosed. SouthComm is primarily a B2B media company offering print, digital and events to the aviation, accounting, print, security, transport and facilities management sectors.
Magazine-media. Jay Penske’s eponymous media company, which last year paid an estimated $51m for 51% control of the legendary Rolling Stone magazine from founder Jann Wenner, is reportedly investing a further $10m in a July relaunch, with “15% more” journalists and content, including headhunts from Complex Media, the LA Times and Mother Jones. The 51-year-old magazine (whose 49% minority shareholder is the fast-growing Singapore-based music-making site BandLab) is managed by Penske Media Corp whose digital and magazine brands include Variety, Deadline, MovieLine, Women’s Wear Daily, IndieWire, SheKnows, Hollywood Life, Robb Report and Beauty Inc. Jay Penske is seen by staffers as something of a saviour of print for what he did at Variety, with his launch of women’s magazine Muse from the Robb Report, and now with Rolling Stone. The 15-year-old New York-based company, which claims a monthly all-media audience of 180m, is controlled by the founder, digital entrepreneur (and sometime racing driver) who this year sold a minority stake to Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. That $200m investment (for a stake of some 20%) is expected to lead to larger (and more international) deals by the already highly-acquisitive Penske. Observers also expect a $1bn+ IPO in the next year or two. But, before that, we know who will be at the front of the line if Advertising Age, Folio, New York magazine or almost anything from Condé Nast comes up for sale. Perhaps Meredith’s for-sale Time or Sports Illustrated too?
Events. The Belgium-based, privately-owned Easyfairs is taking over the Building Holland trade fair from Duurzaam Gebouwd. Building Holland is an annual 15k sq m three-day event for the construction and property industries, held at Rai Amsterdam with a reported average of 15,000 visitors and 230 exhibitors. Easyfairs is a multi-format event organiser, active with more than 218 of its own events in 17 countries including China, France, Germany, the UK and the US. It also manages 10 event venues in the Benelux, Germany, and Sweden. Analyst AMR recently named Easyfairs (which employs 752 people and has revenues of €160m) as one of the world’s top 20 exhibition organisers. A fast-growing company to watch.
Context: read our Insight on Reed Exhibitions and the churning world market.
Broadcast-streaming. Pandora, the largest US audio streaming service, has completed its acquisition of AdsWhizz, first announced in March. AdsWhizz’s ad technology products are capable of things like dynamic ad insertion, advanced programmatic platforms, and ad campaign monitoring tools. Last year, the 18-year-old Pandora revealed that 56m of its 81m active users subscribe to the Today’s Country internet radio station and that country music accounted for more than 1.7bn listening hours on the platform in 2016.
Broadcast-streaming. Rapt Media, which was founded in 2011 and raised $12m in funding, offers customers interactive video technology in areas such as marketing/sales, education and HR. Clients include Mercedes, EMC Dell, Alight Solutions, and eBay. Transaction terms not disclosed. Kaltura operates Cloud TV and online video services for thousands of enterprises, media companies, service providers and educational institutions globally and engages hundreds of millions of viewers in home, work, and school.
Research. The UK quoted £110m-revenue research firm YouGov has held a 20% stake in SMG Insight, a sports research agency, since 2010 and is now acquiring the remaining 80%. SMG Insight had generated £1.2m pre-tax profit in the year to 31 March 2018. Cash consideration of £1m is payable at completion, with a further £1m payable in 12 months, in addition to deferred consideration reflecting a 4.25x multiple of EBITDA to be paid over three-years. Total consideration is capped at £21m.
Events. The Linz-based Startup300, which operates as an angel investor network and business accelerator offering services to Austrian startups, has acquired the flagship Pioneers Festival. It annually brings together a global community of 2,500 tech founders, investors, and 500 startups at the 500-year-old Hofburg Imperial Palace in Vienna. Terms not disclosed.
Events. Diversified Communications – the increasingly global B2B events, digital and magazine business – has acquired the 12-year-old The Running Event exhibition, conference, and digital magazine Running Insight, from Formula 4 Media. The US-based Diversified has almost 50 brands, operates over 150 events, 25 digital services, and seven print publications, including: National Fisherman (US), Mumbrella (Australia), and the London Design Fair (UK). The 60-year-old Diversified is owned by the Hildreth family in Maine, US, and formerly also owned radio and TV channels.
B2B information. The new Hong Kong-based private equity firm Aretex Capital Partners is acquiring the Dallas-based Alerian, a provider of energy infrastructure indices and market intelligence, including the flagship Alerian MLP Index (AMZ), which is widely used by industry executives, investment professionals, research analysts, and national media to analyze relative performance. Over $18bn is directly tied to the Alerian Index Series through exchange-traded funds and notes, separately managed accounts, and structured products. Aertex was founded in 2017 by two employees of ZZ Capital International. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
B2B information. Iovation provides device identity and consumer authentication capabilities, and a digital device reputation consortium, with insight into nearly 5bn unique devices from more than 35,000 leading brands across more than 50 countries. This deal will strengthen the $12.5bn market cap TransUnion’s fraud and identity solutions capability. TransUnion operates in more than 30 countries including North America, Africa, Latin America and Asia. Terms not disclosed.
B2B information. New York-based Ipreo employs 1,700 people, providing information to support capital-raisings. Owned by private equity funds managed by Blackstone and Goldman Sachs, Ipreo’s sale is conditional on regulatory approvals and is expected to complete in the second half of 2018. IHS Markit is a London-based global information provider, listed on Nasdaq, which has revenue of almost $4bn. Its brands include: Jane’s Fighting Ships, R.L.Polk, McCloskey’s and Fairplay.
Broadcast-streaming. Comcast, the world’s largest broadcasting company, confirmed it is putting together a rival offer to Disney. Last year, 21st Century Fox turned down a bid from Comcast citing regulatory concerns. Comcast and Disney are also slugging it out with rival offers for Europe’s largest pay TV network Sky. Meanwhile, the Murdoch family have appointed executives to manage Fox News and Fox Sports, the TV channels which would be omitted from Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox. These moves may well be complicated further if Comcast’s impending bid includes the news and sports channels. It is possible, however, that the Comcast bid for 21st Century Fox is merely a tactic to persuade Disney, ultimately, to allow the Comcast bid for Sky TV while it acquires the rest of 21st Century Fox. Those are the deals are considered most likely to achieve regulatory clearance in the US and Europe.
Broadcast-streaming. Urban One, the largest African American broadcasting company in the US with a market cap of $88m, has agreed to acquire the assets of the radio station The Team 980 (WTEM 980 AM) from Red Zebra Broadcasting, pending FCC approval. In addition, Urban One has also entered into an agreement with American football team the Washington Redskins to ensure continuing coverage of all Redskins games on The Team 980. The privately-owned 38-year-old Urban One aims to be “the most trusted source in the African-American community that informs, entertains and inspires our audience by providing culturally relevant integrated content through our radio, television, and digital platforms.” Terms not disclosed.
B2C digital. In an all Japanese transaction, the 19-year-old social network Mixi, Inc (which has some 20m active users) will sell Diverse, Inc., an online dating business, to IBJ, Inc. Based in Tokyo, Diverse provides marriage partner introduction and dating services, and has developed an online matchmaking platform. Terms not disclosed.
Music. Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Investment Company is selling its 60% equity interest in EMI Music Publishing to Sony Corporation of America “based on an enterprise value of $4.75bn”. The $2.3bn deal gives Sony approximately 90% of EMI, which becomes a consolidated subsidiary. The remaining equity is held by the estate of former pop star Michael Jackson.
Events. ITE is the £120m-revenue, London-based operator of exhibitions principally in Eastern Europe and Asia. The seven Ascential shows it is acquiring include market-leading UK brands such as the International Spring and Autumn Fairs, Pure, BETT and CWIEME. The largest of these are entrenched giftware trade shows attended by independent retailers (like the former GLM shows now owned by Emerald in the US). But CWIEME is a global franchise in manufacturing and the 33-year-old exhibition show BETT could also go international. In 2017, the acquired shows had revenues of £77.5m and EBITDA profit of £24m. At nearly four times revenue and 12.5 times EBITDA, this is a full price for these cash-generative but mature, no/low-growth B2B exhibitions. ITE has explained that the acquired exhibitions were “scalable” (pushing back on fears of ex-growth). Since it adds some 60% to ITE revenues and makes the UK its largest market, the deal (which is subject to shareholder approval) can certainly be transformative. This is a year of unending exhibition deals and the pivotal nature of ITE’s acquisition was underlined by its just-released first-half financials that showed like-for-like growth in volume and yields for the first time since 2014. If the company’s troubles with its Russian business are truly in the past, it can now concentrate on trying to prove – at the very least – that the International Spring Fair, long one of the UK’s largest B2B exhibitions, can be returned to growth. Success may, of course, just make ITE another target for its larger UK-based peers, Reed Exhibitions and the ravenous Informa. Even the impressive Ascential might be at risk. Its divestment of the UK shows (like that of the 11 profitable but no-growth B2B magazines for less than 4x EBITDA in 2017) is expected to dilute its profits a bit. Investors will be fine with the short-term impact of such strategic purity – providing Ascential is able to use the cash to buy attractive new businesses and to sustain its rapid growth from: the soaring Money 20/20 and the slightly wobbly Cannes Lions festivals, global information group WGSN, newish e-commerce, and the hazy MediaLink consultancy. No pressure.
Context: Ascential breaks out
News. The New York-based New Media Investment Group Inc is acquiring the 68k-circulation Akron Beacon Journal and its ohio. com web site from Black Press. The $16m price is less than 10% of what the Canadian group paid for the 180-year-old daily newspaper back in 2006. In a separate transaction, New Media has also agreed to sell its Alaska newspapers to Black Press. New Media (and its immediate parent Gatehouse Media) has spent some $1bn in five years investing in local media, digital and marketing businesses. It currently publishes 144 daily newspapers and 333 weeklies with an aggregate circulation of almost 4m, and may now be the largest local media group in the US. It has, notably, grown EBITDA profit by an average of 20% over the five years since its financial reconstruction, and its revenue is now 56% digital. The scale of ambition, investment and apparent success makes New Media a role model for other markets with potentially under-valued newspapers. Is anyone in the UK watching?
News. WordStream is a Saas provider which helps clients and agencies to optimize digital marketing campaigns. The purchase price is $130m in cash plus up to $20m on earnout payable in 2019 and 2020. The transaction builds upon Gannett’s existing digital marketing services, ReachLocal and SweetIQ. In the first year, WordStream is forecast to generate some $55m revenue and $16m of EBITDA profit.
B2C Digital. The sale of Zoopla will land the UK’s £1.5bn-revenue Daily Mail group DMGT with a £642m windfall for cashing out of online property portals. This may yet flush out a counter-bid with Axel Springer looking like a potential alternative. The US private equity firm SilverLake had earlier this year acquired EDR from DMGT, with the provider of real estate date and software priced at $205m. Having successfully earlier sold out of jobs classifieds and reduced its holdings in Euromoney – all fruits of a successful history as a portfolio investor – DMGT has given up trying to sell Metro, its past-the-peak free daily. But when will the cashed-up news group stop selling and start buying? That’s, of course, when the high prices will bite back. DMGT is thought to have been an under-bidder both for the £300m Ascential UK exhibitions, just won by ITE, and for the $300m US-based PennWell B2B group acquired recently by Clarion. Could it next do something audacious and bid for one or two UK public companies: the tech-savvy B2C Future? Or the expansive B2B Wilmington, chaired by Martin Morgan, DMGT’s former CEO? DMGT could buy both and still get change from the Zoopla pay-out.
Broadcast-streaming. Axel Springer has accelerated the sale of its 7% in Turkey’s Dogan TV. The German media group is among the last independent companies to hold stakes in Turkish media after business allies of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gained control of about 90% of the television and newspaper market.
Broadcast-streaming. Mediawan is the Paris-based parent of the €160m-revenue Groupe AB which has a portfolio of 19 channels in French-speaking Europe and Africa. Aton Soumache and Dimitri Rassam’s ON Entertainment is a European producer of animated content for children and families via broadcast, movies and digital (including The Little Prince, and Miraculous Ladybug). Price was earlier rumoured to be €100m.
B2B information. The Atlanta-based lead-generation company List Partners (owned by Northlane Capital) has expanded its Wimno platform (claimed to be the leading B2B sales intelligence provider for the US advertising industry) by acquiring two media databases: Access Confidential and Redbooks.
B2B information. Reed Tech, part of RELX’s LexisNexis, has acquired the 10-year-old PatentSight GmbH. The German company evaluates worldwide patents using its Patent Asset Index, which helps identify high-value patents from less important ones. In addition, patent portfolios of competitors, suppliers, customers, areas of technology and new market entrants can be analyzed to identify opportunities and threats.
STM. Weak investor demand forced Springer Nature – the publisher of science magazines, technical and medical books and journals including Nature, Scientific American and the BioMed Central series – to cancel its planned 9 May IPO in Frankfurt at virtually the last minute. Although many of its venerable brands and publishing imprints are more than a century old, Springer Nature was formed in 2015 by the merger of the Holtzbrinck-owned Nature Publishing Group, Palgrave Macmillan and Macmillan Education with Springer Science+Business Media (owned by private equity group BC Partners). Holtzbrinck and BC own 53:47 respectively of the €3bn group. Springer Nature, which claims to be the world’s largest English language academic book publisher with 13,000 new publications every year, last year reported EBITDA profit of €551m on revenues of €1.64bn. This week’s IPO had been intended to pay-down some of the company’s €3bn of debt and help BC Partners to sell down its shareholding to less than 20%. It is, therefore, believed that the alternative option of a share-sale to additional private equity or to trade buyers is now being explored. Some insiders have hinted, however, that a new IPO may instead be planned in London.
STM. The 17-year-old, UK-based independent publisher Future Science Group (FSG) has acquired from Informa Plc the peer-reviewed, open access journal BioTechnique on life science research. Terms not disclosed. FSG publishes e-books, journals and “specialist knowledge networks and content hubs, enabling professionals to easily connect and collaborate in niche scientific fields”.
STM. The Swiss-based, family-owned Karger Publishers has acquired the UK-based information service Health Press Ltd to strengthen its clinical decision support services. Terms not disclosed. Karger is a globally active medical and scientific publishing company publishes across all fields of medical science, with 50 new books per year and 105 peer-reviewed journals with a growing number of open access publications. Its content is published in print and online, predominantly in English. Health Press was founded in 1993 “to promote health through communication with a global network of medical practitioners and patients”.
Broadcast-streaming. The New York-based independent content production company CreativeDrive will combine its network of more than 150 studios in the US, Latin America, Asia and Europe with Zebra’s portfolio of video and content production and localisation offices across London, Paris, Cape Town, Kiev and Sydney to become one of the largest global studio networks. Zebra Worldwide was founded in 2005.
Broadcast-streaming. The purchase of stations in key NFL markets, such as Denver, Miami and Seattle, comes after the Murdoch family-controlled 21st Century Fox’s $52.4bn December agreement to sell the company (minus Fox News and Fox Sports) to Disney. That deal has been disrupted by Comcast’s bid for Fox’s 39% European subsidiary Sky TV. Investors expect either that Disney will bid directly for Sky (with the support of Fox) or that Disney will cede Sky to Comcast and carve it out of its bid for 21st Century Fox. Fox currently owns 28 US TV stations in 17 regional markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, Washington and Houston.
B2B information. The California-based Glassdoor is a website where employees and former employees anonymously review companies and their management. Launched in 2008, it is one of the largest job sites in the US with 59m monthly visitors. It has data on more than 770,000 companies located in more than 190 countries. Glassdoor was created when its two founders discussed how one of them, while working at Expedia, accidentally left the confidential results of its employee survey on an office printer. They realised that such information could help inform people making career decisions. For a decade, it has been the site that (probably) your prospective employees have visited to see what their future colleagues say about the company. Isn’t it just the kind of service you might expect to be cloned by single-sector B2B media? The Tokyo-listed $2bn-revenue Recruit Holdings started in 1960 focused on recruitment advertising for university students. Now, with 50% of its revenues generated from outside Japan, Recruit is the owner of Indeed, probably the world’s largest job aggregator and job search engine, which it acquired in 2012. Will the future see any kind of mergers or collaboration with the growing digital classifieds of news-centric groups Naspers, Axel Springer and Schibsted?
B2B information. LA-based PE firm Levine Leichtman Capital Partners has partnered with the management to acquire Best Lawyers, the global digital and print information service. The Aiken, South Carolina- based, 37-year-old Best Lawyers claims to be the oldest peer review publication in the global legal community with its brands: Best Lawyers, Best Law Firms and the Lawyer Directory. This year’s twenty-fourth edition of The Best Lawyers in America, for example, includes 58,507 attorneys in 145 practice areas, and is based on more than 7.4m evaluations of lawyers by their peers. The company’s listings are now published in more than 70 countries around the world with an estimated audience of 22m. It also has partnerships with New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and also Les Echos in France, the Australian Financial Review, Business Day in South Africa, and Handelsblatt in Germany.
News. Press Association(PA), the UK’s national news agency and media content provider, has acquired 95% of EBS. The company provides electronic programme guide (EPG) data for platforms and channels worldwide, including BBC, BT, Viceland, AMC and Discovery. PA, which has an option eventually to acquire the remaining 5%, this month celebrates the 150th anniversary of its creation in 1868 by a group of UK regional newspaper proprietors. It remains a solidly-profitable private company delivering a continuous content feed of text, images, video and data into newsrooms throughout the UK. In recent years, the £60m-revenue company has successfully diversified from its core news business through the acquisition of: Globelynx (a self-operated camera network which enables executives and academics to be interviewed live on TV from their own offices), and the agencies TNR (PR), Sticky Content (digital), and StreamAMG (video streaming). The EBS acquisition continues a strategy which has been producing better financial results than those of many of PA’s embattled newspaper-owning shareholders, with 10% operating profit margins. Happy 150th Birthday.
Broadcast-streaming. The Atlanta-based listed broadcaster Gray Television, Inc. will acquire KDLT-TV from the South Dakota-based Red River Broadcasting Company. Gray says the deal is forecast to be immediately profit-accretive) and the deal is subject to regulatory approval. Given that bullish forecast, it has to be assumed that at least one reason for the KDLT divestment was the expense of its 2016-built state-of-the-art headquarters in Sioux Falls – which includes enough spare space for a second television station.
Broadcast-streaming. The Canada-based publicly-listed Kew Media (formerly known as Content Media Corporation) produces and distributes TV and digital content worldwide though its companies including Awesome Media & Entertainment, Bristow Global Media and Sienna Films. The group claims to produce and distribute more than 1,000 hours of new content every year. EQ Media was a combination of Essential Media and Quail Entertainment which have offices in Australia and the US. Recent productions have been Texas Flip ‘n Move, Restored, Mom and Me, Holiday Cookie Builds, and Find My Family. Its clients include all all the Australian pay and free-to-air TV channels, Cooking CHannel, Discovery, BBC, PBS, History Channel, and National Geographic.
Events. Electricx is Egypt’s leading energy and power exhibition. The publicly-listed UK-based Informa is currently acquiring the UK-listed UBM to become either the largest or second largest global exhibitions company. It is assumed that Informa will eventually divest its various information businesses especially in STM publishing – not least to prepare for its next round of events acquisitions. in the UK or US. This is already becoming the biggest year for exhibition deals and these have yet to include the long-awaited divestment by RELX of its market-leading Reed Expo business. Surely, coming soon.
Magazine-media. The UK-based Future acquires specialist consumer titles What Hi-Fi?, FourFourTwo, Practical Caravan and Practical Motorhome from the UK privately-owned Haymarket Media Group which has been streamlining its portfolio following the company’s financial rehabilitation (substantial borrowings being all but paid-off through property divestments). Following initial discussions with the UK competition regulator, Future decided not to pursue the acquisition of Stuff magazine (which competes directly with Future’s T3). The consideration was consequently reduced to <£13m. The four magazine-digital brands generated revenue of £9.6m in the year to June 2017. The deal is the latest of a series of recent transactions by Future across the range of magazines, digital services, events and e-commerce in Australia, the UK and US.
B2B information. The Connecticut-based Professional Media Group specialises in information and events for US school leadership. In addition to the Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC) and EducationDaily.com, LRP’s portfolio now includes: District Administration, UBTech, University Business, and the Higher Education Leadership Summits. Founded in 1977 by CEO and president Kenneth Kahn, the Florida-based $70m-revenue LRP serves business and education professionals worldwide. Specializing in education management, HR, and disability through magazines, books, newsletters, videos and digital resources. It also operates 13 conferences and trade shows in China, Singapore and the US. Transaction terms not disclosed.
Books. London-based IBT has a publishing list in Middle East Studies, History, Politics and International Relations. Bloomsbury is the UK-based publicly listed publisher of Harry Potter and so much else across fiction, education, and academia. The 32-year-old company, still managed by its founder Nigel Newton, has a market capitalisation of some £130m.
B2B information. Workforce Surveys & Analytics (“WS&A”) is a leading tech-enabled survey and analytics platform.
Broadcast-streaming. TVA is the Canadian media group which operates the country’s largest French-language TV network. Its range of channels are estimated to have a c70% share of TV revenue in the French-speaking Canadian market. The company is controlled by the listed Quebecor Inc. Serdy is a Quebec-based independent broadcaster and TV production company whose Its channels include Évasion (travel and adventure) and Zeste (food). The deal is subject to regulatory approval.
Magazine-media. Lagardère, once the world’s largest magazine publisher, is finalising a deal with Czech Media Invest to sell most of its French magazines including the legendary 73-year-old Elle, Elle Deco, Version Femina, Art & Decoration, Tele 7 Jours (France’s bestselling TV guide), France Dimanche, Ici Paris and Public. The estimated €100m deal is expected to exclude Paris Match magazine. Many of the Elle international editions outside France are published by Hearst Corp which, in 2011, paid a top-of-the-market $651m for 102 Lagardere magazines in 15 countries. Czech Media Invest is publisher of the Czech Republic’s top-selling tabloid Blesk, three other daily papers and several magazines. It recently agreed also to buy Lagardère’s East European radio stations for €73m. After its exit from magazines, Lagardère’s core business will largely comprise broadcasting, books, retail and travel. It is 30 years ago this month that two major US acquisitions by Lagardère’s Hachette subsidiary made it the world magazine leader, then with 72 magazines in 10 countries.
B2C digital. Springer has sold its 78.4% stake in the 19-year-old Paris-based digital media group Aufeminin which operates in 21 countries with brands including Netmums and Womenology. The €291.5m price paid by the French TV channel TF1 is reported to correspond to 15 x the 2017 EBITDA profit. Axel Springer said it sold the stake because the company had moved away from its own core areas of content and classifieds. But, maybe, that’s just code for feeling compelled to accept a very good price that can be invested in Springer’s fast-growing digital classifieds which now account for some 65% of its EBITDA profit.
Magazine-media. Hearst Magazines has acquired a minority but highly-strategic stake in Gear Patrol, a “men’s enthusiast print and digital publication, store and content studio”. The 11-year-old, New York-based company, which covers a wide range of gadgets, bikes, cars, watches, and sports product, is profitable and claims a monthly audience of 2m. It makes nearly 25% of its estimated $4-5m revenue from e-commerce, by linking readers to products on retail websites including Amazon. It also sells advertising, content marketing and operates events. It will now collaborate with the male-oriented Hearst brands Runner’s World, Men’s Health and Bicycling (acquired last year from Rodale) and, presumably, also Esquire, Car & Driver, and Road & Track. Less than 10% of Hearst Magazines’ digital revenue comes from e-commerce but the total is said to have more than doubled during 2018. Hearst did not disclose the financial terms of the deal which is understood to include an eventual option to acquire the whole company.
B2C Digital. Boston-based adtech company BuySellAds has bought the assets of the content aggregator Digg, once seen as a direct competitor to Reddit. Founded in 2004, Digg had amassed 30m monthly uniques within five years when it reportedly rejected a $200m offer from Google. By 2012, traffic had slumped to 1.5m and the business was sold for a mere $500k. Now, it has been bought, for a nominal sum, by BuySellAds, a 10-year-old company which builds advertising technology used by more than 1,200 independent publishers around the world.
Broadcast-streaming. Europe’s Sky TV has withdrawn its recommendation for 21st Century Fox’s £18.5bn offer after Comcast tabled a £22bn all cash offer. Comcast’s offer £12.50 per share bid is at a 16% premium to the £10.75 offer by Fox has a 39% shareholding in Sky. It is not known how a successful bid by Comcast would affect Disney’s $60bn for 21st Century Fox (less Fox News and Fox Sports). That bid has already been complicated by the protracted and regulatory review into Fox’s bid for Sky – because of the Murdoch family’s large shareholding both in Sky and News Corp, the UK’s largest national daily newspaper publisher. Tough to call, but will Disney make a separate, higher bid for Sky – with the support of Fox’s 39%? And how would that impact the Disney bid to acquire 21st Century Fox?
Broadcast-streaming. To obtain regulatory approval following its $3.9bn acquisition of Tribune Media, Sinclair – the owner of the largest number of US TV stations – is selling nine stations to Standard Media Group for $441.7m in cash, and KPLR-11 in St. Louis to Meredith Corp for $65m. In addition, three stations are being sold to Howard Stirk and two to Cunningham Media. The buyer for the remaining seven stations is yet to be named.
Events. UK-based Informa Plc (now acquiring UBM to become one of the world’s two largest exhibitions organisers. Reed is the other) has acquired the Egypt-based shows: MediConex, PharmaConex and Africa Food Manufacturing from Arab African Conferences and Exhibitions; and Electricx, Solar-Tec and Mefsec from Egytec Engineering. Terms not disclosed.
Events. UBM (itself being acquired by Informa Plc) becomes the owner of Metaltech, Malaysia’s annual manufacturing process exhibition. The seller ITE is a £400m quoted UK company which organises more than 200 exhibitions worldwide, with a strong (and currently challenging) presence in Russia, Central Asia and Turkey. Consolidation in global exhibitions (large and small) keeps coming. What will happen to wobbling UK listed company ITE?
Events. The US privately-owned Diversified Communications Inc has agreed to sell its trade shows Restaurant & Bar Hong Kong , Natural & Organic Products Asia, and Retail Asia Expo to the UK-based UBM which is itself is being acquired by Informa Plc. No terms have been disclosed. Diversified owns some 50 brands, operates more than 150 events and employs some 650 people around the world, principally in the US, Canada, UK and Australia. It also has publishing and digital services. In December, it acquired Mumbrella, the Sydney-based group of fast-growing media-marketing information services and events.
Broadcast-streaming. UK and US based independent TV and theatre production company DLT Entertainment has acquired UK-based producer Vera Productions (Bremner, Bird & Fortune, and Dispatches). Terms not disclosed.
B2B information. The £115m-revenue, Leeds UK-based Call Credit, like the publicly-listed US-based TransUnion, provides data, analytics and technology solutions to help businesses and consumers make informed credit decisions. The transaction is subject to regulatory approval.
NewPoint Media Group (owned by Lion Equity Partners) is one of the largest US publishers of regional homes magazines including: Homes & Land, The Real Estate Book, Estates & Homes, New Home Guide, and Senior Living Choices. It operates a US national network of over 200 independent publishers which are embedded in their local real estate markets. Undisclosed price.
News. Tronc publishes the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun, New York Daily News and the Orlando Sentinel. Michael Ferro is known for founding software company Click Commerce and the Chicago-based private equity firm Merrick Ventures. Two years ago, he became chairman and largest shareholder of Tronc (then called Tribune Publishing), after buying the 24.5% stake for a mere $44m. In February this year, Tronc sold The Los Angeles Times to a local biotech billionnaire for a toppy $500m – twice what Jeff Bezos had paid for the similar-sized Washington Post in 2013. Ferro stepped down last month just before the publication of a Fortune magazine allegation of sexual scandal at Tronc. His exit has provoked more reports of impending bids for the whole company from SoftBank, Gannett Co., and Apollo Global Management. SoftBank last year bought the Gatehouse newspaper chain. Gannett had made an unsuccessful bid to buy Tronc in 2016, eight years after it had filed for bankruptcy. Observers of the US sales of newspapers as trophy assets are wondering how long it will be before the same happens in the UK where venerable news brands like The Scotsman and the Daily Telegraph have disappointed their long-term owners.
B2B information. The privately-owned DeriveXperts provides valuation services for OTC and other complex financial securities. Terms of transaction not disclosed. IHS Markit is the $20bn, London-based, Nasdaq-listed global provider of information, analytics and solutions to companies in technology, finance, transportation, energy, automotive, agriculture and government. Its brands include: Lloyd’s Register of Shipping, Jane’s Defence Weekly, Carfax, RootMetrics, Infonetics, Petrodata, McCloskey Coal Report, Fairplay, OPIS, and Global Insight.
Events. Shareholders of the UK-based UBM and Informa exhibitions-led companies have approved the £3.9bn bid, to create what is believed to be the world’s second largest event organiser. Informa, in fact, claims that the combined £2.8bn-revenue group will be the market leader, with 24 of the top 250 exhibitions in the US and 150 brands globally. Next up in UK-based exhibitions companies is the auction by Ascential (owner of Cannes Lions and Money 20/20) of its once core retail trade shows including The International Spring Fair, which may fetch £300m. A juicy auction price could well encourage RELX finally to sell-off its distinctly non-core but market-leading Reed Exhibitions which has 500 events per year in 30 countries, with revenue split 40:40:20 between Europe, rest of the world, and the US. Despite 6% revenue growth in 2017, Reed Exhibitions’ 2% profit growth was the lowest of all RELX’s B2B, STM and legal operations. It’s almost the perfect time for a sell-off by RELX which recently splashed £580m on ThreatMatrix, its largest data acquisition for a decade. Expect the largest US-based exhibitions organiser, the publicly-listed Emerald Expositions (55 trade shows), and the increasingly-international Blackstone-owned Clarion Events to be sharpening their pencils. This could become a momentous year for deals in exhibitions, the (so far) undisrupted and uninterrupted highlight of B2B media everywhere.
B2B information. 28-year-old FEA provides risk, pricing and valuation tools to energy and commodity markets. Texas-based Allegro is leading global supplier of commodities management software. Terms undisclosed.
Events. Bolsters the Essex, UK-based, £30m-revenue Media 10 (founder-CEO Lee Newton) in UK specialist kitchen and bathroom magazines/events.
B2B information. EMI provides specialized education, data + training services to oil majors, power, natural gas marketers, utilities, and investment banks. (DTN was last year acquired by Swiss-based TBG for $900m). Terms undisclosed.
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