Publisher in talks over sell-off

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The Independent Online

Magazine publisher Highbury House Communications, the owner of Front, Fast Car and Real Homes, is in talks to sell its business-to-business arm to its management.

It is understood that Tony Salter, the division's managing director and an executive board member of Highbury House, is leading the potential buyout. A source close to the company confirmed exclusive talks were continuing but added that a deal was not expected to be announced imminently. The source also said other unspecified parties remained interested.

It is understood the price being discussed is based on the division's turnover. It usually generates around 35 per cent of group sales, meaning that the price, based on last year's sales, would be around £33m.

Highbury House is selling off the arm so it can focus on its consumer arm. Earlier this year it bought Paragon Publishing from venture capitalist 3i for £32m, bringing Essential Home Cinema and DVD Review. Other titles in the division include Total Wrestling and Baby & You.

The B2B business includes conferences and exhibitions as well as magazines and directories. Titles range from Nurseryman & Garden Centre to wines and spirits magazine Harpers Weekly to European Fund Manager and Office Pro-ducts Dealer. The group has been searching for a buyer for the business for some months.

Shares in Highbury House slid recently after it warned that adjusted profits for the full year would fall short of levels seen in 2002. In September, interim pre-tax losses came in at £27.8m, against profits of £2.9m last year.