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(July 25, 2001) -- Time Inc. today announced it had reached an agreement to acquire Britain's IPC Group of magazines from financial player Cinven.

Including the cash in IPC's coffers, the deal is valued at about $1.6 billion. The companies did not disclose how much cash IPC had, but Reuters reported IPC's cash to total 52 million pounds, or about $74 million, at the end of last September.

The deal is Time Inc.'s largest-ever expansion and gives it a sizable European presence. IPC titles include laddie magazine Loaded, Britain's top-selling title What's On TV, and House & Hound. A Time Inc. spokesman said the deal was subject to European Union approval.

Time Inc.'s European titles were previously limited to Time Atlantic, Fortune International, hipster home title Wallpaper and the French and German editions of In Style.

The deal also tacitly confirms that Time Inc. under AOL Time Warner finds it easier to grow through acquisitions than through new launches. Since last December, the company has picked up Times Mirror Magazines -- now Time4 Media -- for $475 million, and Business 2.0 for $68 million, even as management continues cost-tightening moves.

It was also reported this week that AOL Time Warner and AT&T had had discussions to merge cable operations, and that a $100 million investment AOL Time Warner had made in online retailer Amazon.com included a provision in which AOL Time Warner could make a quiet buyout offer.

AOL Time Warner's stock at midday was $42.52, down 8 cents and well off its 52-week high of $62.27. Last week the stock took a beating when AOL Time Warner executives reported a slight net loss for the second quarter, though narrowly beating forecasts, which left some analysts certain the media giant had started backing away from its future forecasting, which the company denied. -- Jon Fine

Copyright July 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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