Mergermarket sell off has private-equity firms pondering bids

A host of private-equity firms are mulling bids for Mergermarket, the online bible for City rumour and gossip that is being offloaded by Financial Times-owner Pearson.

Advent International, Exponent and HgCapital are all understood to be considering a tilt at a financial-information business that Pearson chief executive John Fallon is said to value at more than £300m. As well as the eponymous flagship title, the division also includes dealReporter and Debtwire.

A media industry source said that 60 companies are believed to have requested information on Mergermarket, which earned Pearson around £100m last year. First-round bids must be entered by the middle of October in a process run by bankers at JP Morgan Cazenove.

If the trio of private-equity firms press ahead with their bids, they will find themselves battling Warburg Pincus, which is backing one of Mergermarket's founders, Caspar Hobbs. Buyout giants KKR and Apax have also been linked with a company that is attracting interest from mid-market and big-budget dealmakers.

Should Mr Fallon, who merged the Penguin books division with Random House earlier this year, succeed in getting close to £300m, Pearson will have made nearly £200m on the business. It splashed out a touch more than £100m on Mergermarket in 2006, though some analysts believe Pearson will be lucky to get much more than that today.

The Mergermarket website was founded in 2000 and now has offices in 65 locations from South America to the Asia-Pacific. It claims to have "the largest team of dedicated M&A journalists providing the latest merger news anywhere in the world".

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