Springer Science & Business Media, the German academic publisher being sold, has attracted interest from companies such as Bertelsmann SE and buyout firms including KKR & Co., Carlyle Group and Providence Equity Partners, people familiar with the transaction said.
Bertelsmann, Europe’s largest media company, may team up with a private-equity fund like KKR or a sovereign wealth fund, two of the people said, asking not to be identified because talks are private. Carlyle may work together with another buyout firm like Providence, which is also looking at the asset, the people said. The asset may be worth between 3 billion euros ($3.9 billion) and 4 billion euros, two of the people said.
EQT Partners AB, Springer Science’s Swedish private-equity owner, bought the company jointly with the Government of Singapore Investment Corp. in 2009 in a deal valuing the publisher at 2.3 billion euros at the time. The business publishes 2,000 magazines and 7,000 books every year on subjects including science, technology and medicine and employs more than 7,000 people.
The owners hired Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS:US) and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM:US) to prepare for an initial public offering and potential sale, people familiar with the matter said last month. While they’re focusing on an IPO, they’re also taking bids from potential buyers, one of them said at the time. EQT and GIC also hired Lilja & Co., the Zurich-based boutique founded by former Lazard Ltd. (LAZ:US) banker Robert Lilja, as IPO adviser, the people said this week.
If the IPO is pursued, Springer Science would likely start trading in April or May, two of the people said. Potential buyers will likely hand in first offers in January next year, they said.
Officials at EQT, KKR, Carlyle, Bertelsmann, Lilja & Co. and Providence declined to comment. A spokesman at Springer Science in Berlin couldn’t be immediately reached for comment outside of regular business hours.
Buyout firms, which typically seek to improve performance at the companies they acquire before selling them within about five years, are searching for cash-rich assets with potential for growth amid a plunge in mergers and acquisitions. Globally, the value of private-equity deals announced so far this year has declined 30 percent to $361 billion from 2011, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Springer Science reported 2011 revenue of 875 million euros, an increase of 1 percent from a year earlier. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization climbed 7 percent to 313 million euros last year.
Bertelsmann Chief Executive Officer Thomas Rabe on Aug. 31 named Springer Science as one of the acquisition targets in the business-information industry. KKR, based in New York, runs the music venture BMG together with Bertelsmann.
In 2009, Carlyle and Providence teamed up and lost out in the bidding to buy Springer Science, a 170-year-old firm founded in 1842. Providence, a firm based in the namesake capital of Rhode Island, manages about $27 billion with a focus on investments in media and education. Carlyle, the buyout firm based in Washington co-founded by David Rubenstein, has more than $157 billion in assets under management, according to its website.
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