Exhibitions. It is believed the US-based Northstar Travel Group is close to acquiring three UK exhibitions – The Business Travel Show, Meetings Show, and Travel Technology Europe – from Centaur Media. The annual two-day events are one part of the Centaur portfolio put up for sale as it prepares to focus on its attractive XEIM marketing services group, which includes Marketing Week, eConsultancy, Festival of Marketing, and Oystercatchers. The 25-year-old Business Travel Show is claimed to be the largest event of its kind in Europe, while The Meetings Show is said to be the UK market leader. The trade shows targeted by Northstar (which has similar events in the US) are reported to attract some 14,000 visitors and almost 1,000 exhibitors. They are believed to have aggregate revenues of more than £6m and at least £1.5m of EBITDA, which implies a likely price of £15-20m. Northstar’s portfolio of B2B travel magazines and information services and events have, in the past 50 years, been variously owned by Reed Elsevier, Rupert Murdoch, Bill Ziff and at least four private equity firms. The company produces more than 75 events in 13 countries in travel, hospitality and the meetings industry. Its brands include: Travel Weekly in the US, Asia and China, TravelAge West, Business Travel News, and Meetings & Conventions. It also owns Phocuswright international research and events, and the Burba Hotel Network. Northstar is currently owned by private equity firm EagleTree Capital. In 2016, it was said to have revenue of $80m with EBITDA of some $20m – more than doubled in the previous seven years. Northstar’s expansion beyond its domestic market has paralleled that of the 10-year-old, UK-based Jacobs Media Group, the events-led publisher of Travel Weekly (UK), The Caterer, and Travolution. Centaur Media‘s decision to divest almost 50% of its portfolio has followed 10 years of substantial change from print to digital. But the 38-year-old UK listed company, whose share price is a mere 50% of its IPO in 2004, has suffered from early decisions to remain a broad UK-centric B2B provider (principally across marketing, finance and law, but also in engineering and HR) rather than to specialise in one potentially global sector – as it is now choosing to do. Imagine, therefore, the bitter-sweet task of CEO Andria Vidler this week in announcing that the debt-free company had increased operating profit by 18% in 2018, with strong performances by many of the brands that will be sold. Further, just 30% of the £5.2m profit (but 60% of the revenue) came from the marketing group XEIM that will remain after the planned disposals. But shareholders will cheer the gutsy CEO if the auctions yield more than 60% of the 38-year-old Centaur’s £77m market capitalisation. The sell-offs are expected to be concluded in the next two months. At that point, XEIM (“excellence in marketing”) will be a highly-attractive marketing specialist – but sub-scale for a listed company. It might be expected either to make an already-targeted transformative acquisition or itself be acquired. Or it could become a private equity-backed MBO. Everybody’s quiet about the next steps. But the current divestment process will, inevitably, have helped would-be predators to clarify financials for the business that Centaur is not intending to sell. Just watch.