VNU Nears Deal on Sale of Magazine Unit

LONDON — Finnish media group Sanoma Oy is near a deal with Dutch publisher VNU NV to buy VNU’s consumer-magazines business for about 1.25 billion euros ($1.09 billion), people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal.

The deal has yet to be finalized and could still fall apart, these people said.

Sanoma appears to have narrowly defeated a joint bid by BC Partners and CVC Capital Partners Group Ltd., the European private-equity firms.

VNU confirmed this month that Sanoma was one of several companies involved in negotiations, and that a deal was likely to be announced by the end of July. Sanoma at that time also said it was in talks with VNU after completing a due-diligence process.

The deal is significant for little-known Sanoma, whose holdings include the daily Helsinki-based broadsheet newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat. Sanoma has said it wants to expand its magazine business.

VNU’s consumer-magazine unit publishes about 150 titles, primarily in the Netherlands, Belgium, Hungary and the Czech Republic. The division had 2000 sales of 823 million euros. VNU is selling the subsidiary, which was once core to VNU’s business, to help finance its 2.6 billion euro acquisition last year of U.S. media company ACNielsen Corp., the market-research firm. VNU also owns Nielsen Media Research, best known for its U.S. television-ratings service.

VNU, based in the Dutch city of Haarlem, has moved in the past few years from a little-known Dutch publisher into a major media concern. Last year, it bought the U.S. business of trade publisher Miller Freeman, a transaction that pushed the U.S. portion of VNU’s business to more than 50%.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is advising Sanoma, while Merrill Lynch&Co. is VNU’s financial adviser.

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