United News seals $640m disposal of Miller Freeman arm

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The Independent Online

United News & Media, the ITV to business services group, yesterday finalised the sale of trade publisher Miller Freeman's US arm to VNU, the Dutch publishing house, for $650m in cash.

United News & Media, the ITV to business services group, yesterday finalised the sale of trade publisher Miller Freeman's US arm to VNU, the Dutch publishing house, for $650m in cash.

That increased the proceeds from United's ongoing disposal programme to £930m and further narrowed the company's focus on media ahead of its proposed, but now uncertain, £9bn merger with Carlton Communications. The disposals cut United's debt to £400m from around £1.3bn at the year-end.

Miller Freeman's European arm, which includes trade shows such as Batiment, a Paris-based building exhibition, is the final unit on the block in United's revamp. Following that disposal, United's US business publishing turnover, concentrated mostly in technology sectors, will be around £500m annually.

Lord Hollick, chief executive of United News, said: "The sale is a huge step forward in United's programme of focusing on its core markets where we can drive for market leadership. United's powerful positions in UK television, the US hi-tech market and our rapidly growing online businesses will be powerful engines for growth."

Since agreeing to merge with Carlton in November, United sold its US consumer magazines business UAP for $520m and its electronic images group VCG for $220m. Terry Povey, analyst with HSBC, said: "This a good purchase price. There had been a question mark over whether United could get those sorts of prices as it's quite competitive in the US and it was known for some time they didn't want that business." United stock closed up 13p at 930p.

Carlton and United are expected to meet this week to consider renegotiating the merger. It is expected that Carlton's 52 per cent share of the enlarged group will need to rise to 60 per cent for the deal to go ahead.

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