Reed b2b mags sale could be 'thwarted' without exhibitions

The sale by Reed Elsevier of its b2b magazines division could be thwarted by the fact the company is holding on to its exhibitions, the Financial Times reports.

Without exhibitions, selling the b2b arm “may be tricky” according to The Lex Column of the FT, “given that most potential trade buyers embed exhibitions within their print publishing divisions”.

But a competitor to the company suggested that Reed would not prevent buyers setting up related shows.

Yesterday, Reed Elsevier announced its decision to sell off its publishing division, Reed Business Information, as part of a transformation from publisher to web based operator for the parent company. Share prices jumped 7.5 per cent, the highest daily rise in four years as a result.

The sale of RBI could “take a while to achieve, given current market conditions”, according to the FT’s senior companies reporter Maggie Urry. But Reed Elsevier have said they are prepared to take their time over the sale.

Potential interest in the business is likely to come from UK based Informa, Apax — the private equity group that invested in Incisive and Emap’s B2B division — and Veronis Suhler Stevenson.

Other potential buyers could include private equity backed competitors Nielsen and Springer who were seen as likely to seek a sale or floatation but could now instead bulk up by buying Reed titles.

Several rivals have suggested there will be more interest in pieces of the portfolio, rather than in the whole division. One competitor told the FT that Reed Elsevier was “probably a year too late for this” in a tough advertising climate where £1 billion plus bids are hard to fund.

The FT further analyses the sale in the context of Reed’s management under CEO Sir Crispin Davies who one commentator said was spending the money that should be raised from RBI to get into a business more closely alligned with their core portfolio.

Update: Private equity group Apax Partners is considering a bid for RBI, the Times also reports. Apax already owns B2B publisher Incisive Media and recently paid £1 billion for Emap’s B2B titles together with Guardian Media Group. The Times also mentions private equity firms Providence, Cinven and Candover as potential bidders, along with publisher Informa. United Business Media is thought unlikely to bid, the Times says.

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