Reed Elsevier plans listings in New York: Company eyes two publishers as emphasis goes on US activities

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REED ELSEVIER, the anglo-Dutch publishing giant, is focusing its expansion plans on North America, with proposals to list both quoted halves - Reed International and Elsevier - in New York.

The move should make it easier to raise capital in the US, where the group is looking at two large US publishing companies now for sale, Ziff Communications and Mead Data Central.

Ian Irvine, the new co- chairman, stressed the group's commitment to growth through acquisition. His comments came despite the unexpected departure six weeks ago of his predecessor, Peter Davis, credited with Reed International's successful acquisition-driven past.

The group said the New York listings, which should be in place by October, were designed to recognise the increasing importance of its US businesses as well as to broaden the respective companies' shareholder bases.

Last year it spent pounds 275m buying the US-based Official Airline Guides. About 40 per cent of operating profits now come from North America.

A New York quotation may also help Elsevier close the discount - which has been as high as 14 per cent - at which its shares trade relative to those of its British sibling.

Americans account for up to a fifth of Elsevier shareholders but only about 5 per cent of Reed's. With the same aim, Elsevier will also carry out a 10-for-one share split.

Reed sees Ziff and Mead Data as fitting its strategic objectives of expanding in the market for English-language professional publications.

Analysts were sceptical, warning that both purchases looked expensive and earnings-dilutive. Price tags of pounds 2bn for Ziff, a highly successful computer magazine publisher, and pounds 1bn for Mead, which owns the Nexis and Lexis databases, have been rumoured.

Reed's interim figures were in line with market expectations. Operating profit in the first six months of this year was up 15 per cent and the operating margin improved 1.3 percentage points to 22.6 per cent as a result of tough cost-cutting and acquisitions.

Pre-tax profits rose 12 per cent to pounds 332m on sales up 9 per cent at pounds 1.5bn.

The figures included a one-off gain of pounds 18m reflecting the pounds 40m final instalment of the profit from the group's investment in the satellite broadcaster BSkyB, less pounds 22m losses on property surplus to requirements as a result of staff costs.

(Photograph omitted)

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