Quick read. UK listed B2B company Centaur Media confirmed it is appointing advisers to explore potential asset sales, as part of a downbeat trading update for shareholders. The company, which made operating profit of £6.6m on revenue of £72.6m in 2017, is best known for its marketing-media information services, events and publications including Marketing Week, eConsultancy, Celebrity Intelligence, Creative Review, Design Week, and the Festival of Marketing. It also has strong B2B brands in the legal market (The Lawyer) and finance (Money Marketing, Mortgage Strategy, and Platforum).
CEO Andria Vidler (ex EMI and Bauer Radio) has successfully swung the business towards paid-for information and events – and sharply cut operating costs. But the inexorable decline in print advertising have been painful. In 2017, 66% of revenues came from events and paid-for digital content and just 10% from print (halved in two years).
The company sold its non-core consumer homebuilding magazines and events to Future Plc for £32m (8 x EBITDA) but even this will dilute earnings. It is assumed that Centaur most wants to divest itself of relatively minor magazine-led sectors like engineering. But its announcement is likely to attract bids/merger proposals for the whole company.
UK favourites might include the Wilmington Group (a merger would create a stronger listed company from two sagging, sub-scale ones); the acquisitive Mark Allen Group (which could use Centaur to reverse itself onto the London stock exchange), DMGT, Incisive Media – and, of course, private equity.
Cherry-pick bids for the prime brands in marketing and law might come variously from Euromoney, Penske, Crain, and Bloomberg. Centaur’s exhibitions portfolio (including Subcon, The Meetings Show, The Business Travel Show, and Travel Technology Europe) will attract bids variously from Informa, Reed Expo, ITE, CloserStill, and Clarion.
The 37-year-old Centaur Media employs 564 people. Its share price has fallen 17% in the past 12 months and is some 60% below the IPO price in 2004. That depressed price implies shareholder pessimism about the chances of attractive bids. But the £62m market value is also encouraging would-be buyers to take another look at a company with some well-established B2B brands and the potential for the international expansion that has so far eluded it.