Hollick buys US publisher for $920m

UNITED NEWS & MEDIA, the national newspaper and television group, yesterday agreed to pay $920m for a US print and online publisher of computer titles and said it was also keen to expand its UK publishing and television interests.

Lord Hollick, chief executive of UN&M, said the deal did not put it under any financial pressure to sell its flagship Express newspaper titles and added that the group was on the lookout for further acquisitions.

The US company that UN&M is acquiring, CMP Media, owns a number of leading computing and electronics titles including Information Week, Computer Reseller News and Electronic Engineering Times and also operates 40 online sites under the CMPNet brand.

The business, 68 per cent owned by the Leeds family, will be merged with UN&M's trade show and publishing arm, Miller Freeman, to create a high- tech business to business information company.

Lord Hollick also said it was considering a tracker listing on the US Nasdaq index and a flotation of the CMPNet business.

The price paid by UN&M represents two-times CMP's sales and 31 times its earnings last year before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of $29m. Restructuring costs of $65m will be taken as an exceptional charge in UN&M's accounts but savings of $40m are forecast by 2000, making the acquisition earnings enhancing.

The deal will yield a $625m windfall for the Leeds family.CMP was floated in the US for $500m two years ago.

The acquisition is the first major buy by UN&M since the end of 1996 and will leave UN&M with pounds 1.25bn debt. But Lord Hollick said he was interested in further acquisitions.

In particular, he would like to raise UN&M's stake in Channel 5. UN&M owns 29 per cent but there has been speculation the 18 per cent stake held by venture capital fund Warburg Pincus is for sale. Lord Hollick said he had no plan to sell the Express titles. Outlook, page 19

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