German media group Bertelsmann has emerged as one of the bidders for Reed Elsevier's B2B division, according to media reports. The company's publishing subsidiary, Gruner + Jahr, confirmed that it was involved in the bidding for Reed Elsevier's trade magazine arm, Reed Business Information (RBI). The division, valued at £1- 1.25 billion, includes titles such as New Scientist, Variety and Farmers Weekly.
Gruner + Jahr, 75 percent of which is owned by Bertelsmann, is a major magazine and newspaper publisher. The group's 500 titles include the news weekly Stern and the business daily FT Deutschland. Gruner + Jahr's chairman and chief executive, Bernd Kundrun, has reportedly said that the company is looking for acquisitions in new areas. The move for RBI follows Bertelsmann's withdrawal this month from its music joint venture, Sony BMG. Bertelsmann joins a crowded field in the second round of bidding for RBI. Reed is also believed to have received offers for just part of the business which is divided geographically into UK, European and US assets.
The sale of RBI began last month when information was sent to potential bidders. RBI is the largest B2B publisher in North America, with 2,500 employees and 80 magazines. If the sale is executed, it would be the biggest media takeover since the sale of Emap at the end of 2007. Emap's B2B operations were bought by private equity group Apax and Guardian Media Group, the publisher of the Guardian.
As the print media industry struggles with the challenge of the Internet, B2B publishers are believed to have gained in appeal to investors. Publishers of consumer titles have struggled to build digital revenues to balance falling sales and sluggish advertising. In contrast, the online medium reportedly made up 34 percent of RBI's revenues in the first half of the current year.