The Guardian Media Group has said it is in talks with a
trio of private equity bidders looking to buy a stake in Trader Media Group, which publishes Auto Trader.
GMG had been planning to float the business but has received
approaches from private equity firms Apax, Blackstone and Candover.
GMG, which prints The Guardian and The
Observer, regional newspapers, and also owns a portfolio of radio stations, intends to retain a
majority shareholding in Trader.
A GMG spokesman said floating the business was still the "preferred
option" but it had asked the suitors to come up with more detailed
He said: "We have decided – given the level of interest that has
been expressed – to invite a small number of parties to clarify the
precise nature, structure and value of their proposals."
Trader Media Group publishes more
than 70 titles including Auto Trader, Bike Trader and Truck Trader.
The business, which has 3,800 staff, lifted operating profits 2.8%
to £119.5 million on sales of £303.3 million in the year to 2 April
It is the biggest contributor to profits at GMG, which made
underlying pre-tax profits of £98.2 million on sales of £700.3 million
over the period.
Auto Trader has a weekly circulation of 278,000 and its website gets nearly seven million visits a month.