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Matt Handbury in pitch for ACP Magazines

09 Nov 2011

Matt Handbury, nephew of Rupert Murdoch, is keen to get back into the magazine publishing arena with particular interest in Nine Entertainment's ACP Magazines however has met some obstacles in his quest.

"I would like to get back into the industry. Yes, I am very keen to purchase ACP Magazines," Mr Handbury told Media in The Australian.

"However, I have been unable to find finance at a level to meet (private equity group) CVC's price expectations.

"At the moment it's a bit hard to find someone who has any confidence in investing in magazines at this level besides me."

Mr Handbury said he believed CVC Capital Partners, Nine's ultimate owner, would consider an offer for the publishing house, which controls 51.7 per cent of the magazine market in terms of sales and 43.7 per cent in terms of readership.

Mr Handbury would not comment on what the price would be. Investment market sources said ACP made about $115 million last financial year and was probably looking at about $100m or less for 2011-12, with a very uncertain advertising sales outlook for the remainder of the financial year. They speculated a reasonable price estimate would be in the region of $600m.

ACP publishes more than 85 titles in Australia, selling about 100 million copies each year, including The Australian Women's Weekly, Woman's Day, Dolly, NW, TV Week and Zoo Weekly. Last week Nine Entertainment sold most of ACP's Asian magazine assets to Singapore Press Holdings for $S58m ($45m).

The magazine advertising market is predicted to decline by more than 5 per cent this year.

"I believe magazines are seriously underperforming financially," Mr Handbury said. "They could be doing a much better job of extracting value out of the advertising market."

Mr Handbury is the nephew of Rupert Murdoch, the chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, the ultimate owner of The Australian.

He left magazine publishing in mid 2004 after more than two decades when he sold his Murdoch Magazines business, which published Marie Claire, Better Homes and Gardens and Men's Health, to Seven Media Group's Pacific Magazines. A non-compete clause in the $77m deal expired in mid 2007.

Mr Handbury's other business interests include book publisher Murdoch Books. In recent years his main focus has been on his rain-making business Australian Rain Corp, developing a technology to induce rainfall.

"I have been having fun but we have done everything we can do with that," he said. "Now it's just a matter of . . . getting acknowledgment among the scientific community."

In the meantime, Mr Handbury said he had been "really missing" magazine publishing.

"It has been sad to see what has been happening with magazines," he said. "So I'm pretty motivated to get back in."

Mr Handbury returned to the spotlight on Friday when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the third Australian Magazine Awards, using his acceptance speech to strongly affirm his belief in the future of magazines.

"There are still millions of magazines being sold each week -- their overall reach remains massive. More importantly, they are carrying pretty much the same number of ads they always carried," he said.

"Magazines will assert themselves in the tablet space. And people will pay for them. We will compete for these circulation sales as we have for decades in newsagents and supermarkets."

Source: The Australian

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