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Financial Crisis Leaves Magazine Deals on Shaky Ground

RBI, Cygnus sales ‘uncertain’ in current climate.



By Jason Fell
10/09/2008

With the U.S. economy continuing its dramatic slide and consumer confidence dwindling in the wake of a widening global credit crisis, it’s no surprise that big media deals just aren’t getting done.

One deal in particular is Reed Elsevier’s auction of its b-to-b publishing arm Reed Business Information—a business the London-based media giant says is too dependent on print advertising. According to the Financial Times, the sale seems “uncertain” with bidders re-examining their offers after one or more of the banks that had been part of a consortium to lend the eventual buyer more than $1 billion reportedly backed out, leaving a lending shortfall of about $200 million.

While some say the RBI auction could be called off altogether, others remain confident that a deal will eventually get done despite the state of the credit markets. “Reed has made a big, public process out of this. They want to get a deal done and I don’t see them backing out now,” one knowledgeable M&A source told FOLIO:. “The key to this will be how much more financing Reed itself will carry. After that, will Reed be willing to take a deal that’s below their expectations? One that’s, say, 8X not 10X [EBITDA]? That’s what it’ll come down to.”

Another big deal that’s hanging in the balance is ABRY Partners’ potential sale of Cygnus Business Media to Wasserstein and Co. The deal was said to have been set to close by the end of August. Has it gone the way of Entrepreneur Media’s failed sale to Texas-based private equity firm Austin Ventures and died? Or is it on life support?

Deals like these will act as bellwethers for big magazine M&A in the coming months. So far, the outlook isn’t great. According to the Jordan, Edmiston Group’s third quarter M&A report, transactions in the media, information, marketing services and related technologies sectors are down a whopping 70 percent over the same period last year.

On top of that, private equity groups are holding onto their money, the report says, controlling $450 billion in uninvested capital worldwide.

By Jason Fell
10/09/2008




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