UBM facing hedge fund play as Levin and Carter depart

Leading events and publishing company UBM has been targeted by a Mayfair hedge fund in a move that could lead to its break-up.

Investment group Hengistbury has amassed a 5.2 per cent stake in the global organiser, according to a report in the The Sunday Times newspaper, making it the second-largest investor in the £1.7bn business.

UBM recently confirmed Chief Executive David Levin is to bring forward his departure date in order to join McGraw-Hill Education in the US in March. He handed in his notice last September and a successor is expected to be announced in the short-term. Ruth Carter left her post as Chief Executive at UBM Conferences before the New Year. A UBM spokesman explained Carter’s move followed the company’s decision to integrate its conference activities into the event teams, with the conference business organised along community lines rather than on functional activity lines.

UBM says it has no plans to replace Carter as CEO of Conferences as a result. The decision provides further evidence that UBM’s key focus remains on large-scale exhibitions.

“We have continued to focus on large tradeshows,” Levin told Mash Media’s Exhibition World in an interview last year. “In 2012, 100 annual events generated revenues of more than £1m, accounting for 85 per cent of annual event revenues.”

The break-up sale of UBM could likely lead to the sale of PR Newswire, said to be worth around £500m and a profitable business for the media company, on the grounds that it no longer fits the company’s event-heavy profile. The company derives three-quarters of its revenue from events. This would leave UBM’s events division vulnerable to takeover.

Informa, whose long-serving CEO Peter Rigby stepped down last month, to be replaced by Lord Stephen Carter, is one potential buyer for the company. The media company last year confirmed it wished to expand its large exhibitions and event portfolio, having shed the bulk of its small conferences – a strategy in line with UBM’s and a compelling case for potential acquisition. UBM’s share price has fallen nine per cent in the past year against a 10 per cent rise for Informa.

German media group Bertelsmann is also rumoured to be on the hunt for acquisitions. Thomas Rabe, Chief Executive of Bertelsmann has said that the group can deploy “several billion Euros” in the next three years for acquisitions post-the partial sell-down in its stake in German broadcaster and media company RTL. Acquisition targets will either be used to strengthen core businesses or expand in areas such as music, education and business information.

Do you have news for CN? Email: pcolston@mashmedia.net

Paul Colston

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Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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