Cannes Lions

Cannes Lions' Parent Plans IPO in U.K.

A Sale or Flotation Has Long Been Rumored for the Festival

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The parent company of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity today confirmed its intention to do an initial public offering on the London Stock Exchange.

Credit: Courtesy of Cannes Lions

Ascential, owned by private equity group Apax and the U.K.'s Guardian Media Group, is an events and business information company whose most important business is the Cannes Lions festival.

The Cannes Lions festival has been reassuring the ad agencies and others it does business with that the proposed move from a private company to a listed one won't change the festival's strategy or goals, or the way it works with the industry.

U.K. media reported today that the IPO is likely to happen next month, and that Ascential will sell at least 25% of its shares to raise a minimum of $290 million, part of which will be used to pay down the parent company's debt.

A sale or flotation has been rumored for the last couple years. Plans for a flotation were flagged when the company started filing documents necessary to go public at Companies House, a U.K. operation that incorporates companies and registers the information companies are required by law to provide. In a flurry of filings, Ascential, which was called Top Right Group until December 2015, set up a public limited company called Trident Floatco on Jan. 4, then renamed itself Ascential on Jan. 5. Various filings this week appointed company directors and applied for a trading certificate for a public company.

The current owners bought the company, then known as Emap, in 2008. Emap had added the Cannes Lions to its events and media portfolio back in 2004, acquiring the festival from eccentric French businessman Roger Hatchuel for $96 million.

In recent years the festival has expanded enormously, adding new awards contests and whole new industries like healthcare marketing. It has also become almost as much of a must-attend event for marketers, tech companies and a growing number of celebrities as it long has been for agencies.

This year's June festival on the French Riviera is adding Entertainment Lions and Entertainment Lions for Music, with two separate juries and dedicated winners. Entertainment Lions will cover all forms of audio-visual entertainment, live experiences, gaming, sport and talent.

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