M&A activity picks up

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Separate reports released by investment banks Berkery, Noyes & Co. and Jordan, Edmiston Group show a steady uptick in media mergers and acquisitions activity in the first half of this year, with more deals on the horizon. “We have a very positive outlook going forward,” said Tom O'Connor, managing director at Berkery Noyes. “I think you'll see more deals, but smaller deals. You have some b-to-b publishers in the $20 million range who may want to sell their business. They've done very well, but it may be time to sell; the market has moved.” Berkery Noyes' report focused on M&A activity in the media and marketing industries. The number of transactions in the first six months of the year rose 6% from the year-earlier period to 834, while the aggregate deal value surged 27% to $31.5 billion, according to the report. The median revenue multiple fell to 1.2x in the first half from 1.8x in the year-earlier period, and the median EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) fell to 7.8x from 10.0x. “If it's about 100% price, the [media] property is going to have a challenge in the marketplace,” O'Connor said. “But if there is a balance of revenue steams, some recurring revenue and more subscription-type products in the mix, it makes it much more attractive to buyers.” Richard Mead, managing director at Jordan, Edmiston, said having diverse revenue streams played an important role in the recent sale of Northstar Travel Media to a private equity fund of the Wicks Group of Cos. for an undisclosed price. Jordan, Edmiston represented Northstar in the transaction. “There was a lot of interest for Northstar, both from strategic [companies] and financial sponsors,” Mead said. “What they were very keen on was a single sector-focused business [and] an array of revenue streams, ranging from market-leading magazines and events, online [media] and business intelligence.” Jordan, Edmiston's M&A report focused on deal flow in the media, information, marketing services and technology sectors. The number of transactions in the first six months of the year increased 52% from the year-earlier period to 652, while the aggregate deal value jumped 49% to $31.7 billion, the report said. The b-to-b media sector remained relatively quiet. Jordan Edmiston tracked 14 first-half deals, compared with eight transactions in the first half of 2011. Aggregate deal value increased 266% to $82 million. (The Northstar transaction closed in July and is not included in the report.) Mead said that on the heels of the Northstar deal, “we are seeing a number of traditional b-to-b media companies inquiring about coming to market.” He did not name any of those companies.
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