Thomson Financial braces for sale of print pubs

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Thomson Financial Publishing last month put a bevy of its most notable print publications up for sale in an effort to focus laserlike on electronic publishing.

Some of the titles are household names in the commercial banking sector, including American Banker and The Bond Buyer.

The sale announcement suggested that Thomson Financial, a division of Toronto-based media conglomerate Thomson Corp., was getting out of the print media business altogether. That's not exactly the case. But while Thomson Financial has retained more than two dozen print titles, it has done so primarily to cross-fertilize the publications with its various electronic information systems that target the multitrillion-dollar institutional investment market.

On the block

Thomson Corp. recently announced that it is selling several print products from its Thomson Financial market group to concentrate on its Web efforts. The following is a partial list of titles on the block:

American Banker
• A.S. Pratt & Sons
The Bond Buyer
Credit Union Journal
Financial Planning
• National Mortgage News
On Wall Street
Securities Industry News
• Sheshunoff Information Services
Traders Magazine

Job one for Thomson is to unload its print products that cater to the commercial banking industry. Sources say the group could command up to $400 million. The company would prefer to sell the titles as a package but isn't ruling out selling them individually.

Possible buyers mentioned include Dow Jones & Co. Inc., McGraw-Hill Cos. Inc., Wicks Business Information L.L.C. and Wolters Kluwer NV. Thomson has retained Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. to advise on the sale.

"Everyone will look [at the portfolio], but what I'm hearing from buyers is that there's not a lot of growth potential," said Richard Mead, managing director of investment banking firm The Jordan Edmiston Group Inc. "A financial player with an existing platform will be in a better position to buy." Mead also questioned the timing of the sale, what with all the current economic mixed signals.

Others say that if Thomson dragged its feet any longer, the potential sale price would start to fall. "It's as good a time as any," said Charles Wendel, president of Financial Institutions Consulting Inc.

"Financial services has become chaotic and sexy the last several years, and you don't get enough of that [in American Banker]. What a buyer needs to do is come in and reposition the magazine to target all of the financial services. That will only be done with a vigorous approach to investment."

The print titles Thomson Financial is holding on to, such as International Finance Review and Mergers & Acquisitions Report, target the M&A, private equity, investment banking, investor relations and fixed-income markets.

"We're trying to winnow down our market focus away from commercial banking and insurance," said Patrick Tierney, president-CEO of Thomson Financial. "This is not about getting out of print."

But Thomson has clearly grown more selective about the types of print products it holds. Through February, Thomson had sold all but two of its 55 daily and 75 non-daily newspapers, with Gannett Co. buying 21 of the U.S. dailies for $1.13 billion.

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