'The Business' on the prowl

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The Independent Online

The Business, the weekly financial newspaper owned by the Barclay brothers, has hired investment boutique Durlacher to look for acquisitions.

Identical twins Julian and Simon Hirst - respectively, head and managing director of corporate finance at Dur- lacher - are leading the hunt.

The newspaper, whose editor-in-chief is broadcaster Andrew Neil, came close to buying EuroBusiness, the financial magazine owned by Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone. It pulled out of the deal in December after protracted negotiations.

Its managing director, Paul Woolfenden, said: "Durlacher has been helping us find opportunities to expand The Business. If we identify an asset which we think would add value, we present the proposal to Aidan [the son of Sir David Barclay]."

The Business also expressed an interest in acquiring publishing group Centaur, which includes Marketing Week in its portfolio and was recently put up for sale. It could be worth up to £140m. The newspaper is not pursuing its interest.

It is understood that US merchant media bank Veronis Suhler Stevenson, which is handling the sale, accepted three first-round bids of over £100m for Centaur last week. But banking sources described the valuation as "eye watering" and questioned whether declining advertising revenues justified the price.

The Business recorded an ABC circulation figure of 287,299 last month, an 83 per cent year-on-year increase. It has boosted its readership through a tie-up with The Mail on Sunday, which gives the paper away free in some areas, and is looking for other similar deals overseas.