Computer magazines set for dollars 3bn auction: Bidding for Ziff titles expected to be fierce

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EIGHT leading computer titles owned by New York's Ziff family, including PC Magazine and PC Week, are to be sold in an auction that could raise up to dollars 3bn (pounds 2bn).

Ziff Communications, which includes electronic information and an on-line data service, is widely regarded as the most attractive magazine-publishing property to come on to the market in years, and the bidding is expected to be fierce.

The high price tag is likely to disqualify most American newspapers and magazine publishers, leaving the field to big international media groups and perhaps telecommunications companies anxious to acquire 'content' for their emerging on-line services.

Reed Elsevier and Germany's Bertelsmann are among the most likely to participate, analysts said, but the Baby Bell regional telephone companies, notably Bell Atlantic, might also join the bidding.

The eight computer titles - which Ziff could not sell 10 years ago when it divested its other magazines - are among the few publications to have prospered during the recent advertising recession. With general advertising revenues expected to rise 8 per cent this year in the US, the Ziff titles, along with rival computer magazines published by IDC Marketing, seem poised for strong growth, analysts say.

PC Magazine alone has more than a million subscribers.

Ziff Communications made dollars 150m last year on sales of about dollars 1bn.