"Certainly there are markets which have been growing more quickly
... than the traditional U.S. market and our other long-term
businesses in the U.K. as well," Mr. Edwards said. "Chief among
those of course has been Russia, which had a great run-up until
2009 when it fell off a bit, but we feel it will continue to be a
very good market for us."
Some of the assets in the deal, such as licenses for Car &
Driver in Greece and Mexico, aren't such big businesses. But
expanding operations in Asia could be very fruitful, according to
Hearst's calculations. "Greater China, incorporating the Republic
of China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, is a good place to do business and
has been growing fast for the magazine companies and indeed for
everything else," Mr. Edwards said.
Hearst already has a hand in 10 magazines in Russia, including
local editions of Cosmopolitan and Esquire, but it will add 11 more
through the deal with Lagard?re, which is expected to close by the
third quarter of this year. Hearst's portfolio today touches 14
titles in China proper, such as National Geographic, Men's Health
and Robb Report, which are not Hearst titles in the U.S. Lagardere
is giving the country eight more titles.
It's also just good business to avoid relying entirely on a
single country, according to Hearst. "For Hearst, corporately, we
feel that having wider revenue sourced from a wider array of places
is a good thing," Mr. Edwards said.
If buying abroad is so smart, then why is Lagardere selling? It
decided that outside France, where it is retaining full ownership
of Elle, it didn't have the size necessary to handle challenges
like the recession and new media. Hearst, on the other hand, is
acquiring even more size around the world.
"It's a good deal for both," said Didier Guerin, a former
executive at Lagardere's Hachette Filipacchi division who has also
worked at Conde Nast. "Lagardere finds a way to exit a business it
struggled to manage for a few years and reduce its 2.4 billion euro
debt burden. Hearst finds a way to expand its international print
and digital web."
Follow Nat Ives on Twitter.