Hearst move could close Emap mags, experts warn

Natmags could become the largest magazine publisher in the UK if its parent company buys Emap’s consumer portfolio.

But industry sources have warned it could be at the cost of closure, sale or merger of some of its consumer titles.

According to reports, US media conglomerate Hearst has tabled a £700m bid for the Emap consumer division. The potential move would see its UK arm, Natmags, become the top player in the market, ahead of IPC, the UK division of Time Warner Inc.

A media buyer, who asked not to be named, told Press Gazette: ‘It would turn Natmags into a hugely powerful magazine company.

‘It will give them another dimension, and a much stronger foothold in the youth market. It could make life difficult for buying houses because you want the market to be competitive.”

But they warned the move may come at the cost of titles, with certain Emap publications operating in the same sectors as Natmags under threat.

The source said they believed Emap titles such as Arena, NW and Closer would be particularly at risk. This is because Natmags already has a firm foothold in the men’s lifestyle, women’s monthlies and gossip weeklies sectors with magazines such as Men’s Health and Esquire, Cosmopolitan and Company, and Reveal in the real-life/celebrity sector pioneered by Closer.

One city analyst said a Hearst buyout would be a classic defensive move, putting together a larger company and reducing costs across the board. ‘It’s consolidation in the face of not a lot of growth,’he said.

‘If you have a market with three players, there’s always one of them making trouble at one time,’the analyst said.

‘When you have two dominant powers, life becomes a little easier. Apart from the cost element, there’s a definite argument in there that having two large powers in the market would be preferable.”

According to Press Association some 45 parties have expressed interest in the Emap portfolio, with at least one bid for all three parts – consumer, B2B and radio.

Bidders for Emap’s B2B, which has a likely price tag of £1.3bn, include Incisive (Apax), United Business Media, Reed Elsevier, Cinden and Candover.

Guardian Media Group refused to confirm this week if it had made an offer for the B2B assets.

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