In the face of the global economic fallout over the last several months and the continued devaluation of print-centric media companies, what are the chances Reed Elsevier will be able to pull off the sale of its b-to-b publishing unit Reed Business Information?
That’s what I asked a knowledgeable M&A player today. His response: 30 to 40 percent, “if they’re lucky.”
“It will be interesting if a deal actually gets done,” the source, who wished to remain anonymous, said. “Big media deals are few and far between right now and will continue to be, at least through the next six months. In M&A, certain things—like the number of bidders, price range and available financing—have been predictable. They no longer are.”
Reed’s auction of RBI—a business the London-based media giant says is too dependent on print advertising—has faced steep challenges since at least one of the banks in a consortium put together by Reed to lend the eventual buyer more than $1 billion in staple financing backed out. Reed was recently said to be willing to “significantly” increase the amount of the financing package with the extra money coming from the company’s own balance sheet.
The three bidders remaining in the third round are said to be Bain Capital, TPG and a partnership formed by Strauss Zelnick, a former non-executive director of Reed Elsevier.
“The private equity firms continue to spend their money on due diligence,” the source said.
So, what happens if the auction falls apart? “I wouldn’t be surprised if they try to sell it in pieces,” said the source, echoing previous speculation that the U.S. division of RBI will go separately from the European group. “Reed doesn’t want to keep that print exposure. But it’s challenging for a company that big to sell its businesses individually, too.”