CMP and UBM busy in M&A market

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Add CMP Media to the list of major business media companies taking an aggressive role in this year’s surging mergers and acquisitions market.

CMP and parent company United Business Media recently closed on deals to buy three properties: Informex, a trade show for the specialty chemical industry, for $24 million; Light Reading, an online and event media company specializing in telecommunications and its evolving “next generation,” for $27 million; and TechOnLine, which serves a worldwide community of engineering professionals with online information, education and other services, for an undisclosed sum.

“I wouldn’t want to signal that we’re heavily in the market to acquire companies,” said CMP Media President-CEO Gary Marshall, “but we are clearly looking for acquisitions that make sense for our business.”

Marshall said the three businesses complement CMP’s existing portfolio. “We believe in growing organically and through acquisition,” he said, noting that CMP units are already involved in the telecommunications, engineering and pharmaceutical manufacturing markets.

With regard to the two online b-to-b media companies, Marshall said, “We already have a strong position online and we will continue to build that out.” He added that online businesses are particularly attractive, when they fit the company’s strategic criteria, because “by all measures, online is growing.”

Jeffrey Dearth, partner at DeSilva & Phillips, said media companies, as strategic buyers, are starting to look seriously at acquiring online-based media companies that have proven themselves. While there have not been too many of these deals in the b-to-b space recently, Dearth said he expects to see a lot more. “With all the advertising dollars moving over to online—and a growth rate that’s so much higher than print—they would be foolish not to be looking,” he said.

Dearth noted that TechOnLine, which was founded in 1995, survived the Internet bubble and bust, and has proven itself. Light Reading started in February 2000, just before the bubble burst. “For both of them, the acquisition by a strategic buyer like CMP is the ideal scenario. [The founders] have worked very hard and now they’ll get a payday,” Dearth said, adding that he was not surprised to hear that CMP planned to keep most of the people from TechOnLine and Light Reading.

The new companies bring “good groups of people with expertise, some new products and different ways of doing things,” Marshall said, pointing to examples such as Light Reading TV, a specialized broadband video product, and TechOnLine’s “VirtuaLab,” a patented technology that allows electronics professionals to evaluate hardware via the Internet. “We see an opportunity to leverage products like these in other parts of our businesses,” he said.

In other news from CMP, the company on Sept.1 announced a joint venture with New Delhi-based CyberMedia to create a global portfolio of print and online products as well as events to target professionals who evaluate and select outsourcing solution providers. The new business, called CMP-CyberMedia, will combine the expertise of CyberMedia’s BPO (business process outsourcing) portfolio, which includes, with CMP Media’s “Managing Offshore” e-newsletter and Web site.  Rusty Weston, founder of “Managing Offshore,” will serve as editor in chief for the joint venture.

The Indian joint venture enables CMP to penetrate the fast-growing BPO/offshoring market in an unprecedented way, Marshall said, pointing to a statistic from Gartner Dataquest that forecasts the North American BPO market will grow to $110 billion by 2009.

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