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September 4, 2008

Informa gazundered by private equity as locust speculators grow restive

By Peter Kirwan MM blog

Informa has gotten itself into a right old mess.

First a potential merger with United Business Media collapsed. This happened because private equity came lumbering over the hill with an apparently unbeatable offer.

Now, it seems, that unbeatable offer has been revised. Instead of the rumoured 500p-per-share, a consortium led by Providence Equity Partners has offered 440p-450p.

The story comes from City AM, and you can read it here.

Why is this relevant to anyone? Well, predictably, it has led at least one analyst to recommend that Informa reject the offer — and sell itself off piecemeal to a selection of bidders.

This would effectively be a repeat of what happened to EMAP. Only in this case, Panmure Gordon suggests — helpfully — that a break-up would be less complicated and more attractive. (You’ll find the Panmure note quoted on FT Alphaville’s Market Live session this morning: here.)

A break-up certainly would be attractive for speculators who bought Informa at somewhere approaching 500p.

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The locusts face a rough ride down to 350p if Informa returns to minding its own business.

But no-one else would benefit from the dislocation and uncertainty involved in a long drawn-out break-up. Fundamentally, there’s nothing wrong with Informa.

The only mistake the company made was setting itself up as a target for the City’s locusts when news of its talks with UBM leaked.

Two broken deals later, the insects are growing impatient. In search of sustenance, they now want to rip apart their host.

PS: City AM describes Informa as “the PR Week publisher”. Last time we looked, that august organ was owned by Lord Heseltine, who takes a dim view of the one-dimensional financial engineering that threatens to overwhelm Informa.

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