- The Independent is in discussions to acquire or take stakes in other companies, sources told Insider.
- Prospective takeover targets include international media outlets and tech firms.
- The talks come after a solid year of financial performance and a strong start to 2021.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
UK news title The Independent is in talks to make its first-ever acquisitions, people with direct knowledge of the matter told Insider.
Some of the discussions are with media companies outside of the UK, with a view to bolstering The Independent’s aggressive international expansion plans, those sources said. Elsewhere, the news title is exploring technology acquisitions, said a person involved in the talks.
The discussions are at an early stage and The Independent hasn’t involved a bank, that person added.
While not commenting on ballpark deal sizes, that person said The Independent is “not constrained for the capital [it needs] by current shareholders.” The Independent is owned by Evgeny Lebedev, the wealthy Russian-British businessman who also owns sister title the Evening Standard.
News of The Independent’s first foray into M&A follows a solid financial year, despite the coronavirus pandemic that ravaged many other media companies’ advertising.
The Independent, which went online-only in 2016, reported a 12% lift in revenue to £30.3 million ($42.4 million) in the 12 months to September 2020, according Companies house filings published this week The title recorded a £2.7 million ($3.8 million) profit, marking its fourth consecutive profitable year.
The Independent is also off to a strong start in its latest financial year, according to unaudited internal figures seen by Insider. Revenue between October 2020 and January 2021 grew 29% versus the year-earlier period to £13.6 million ($19 million) — around 15% higher than had been expected. It booked a profit of £2.4 million ($3.4 million) in the period, far higher than the £508,000 ($711,563) it had anticipated.
Founded in 1986 as a broadsheet newspaper, The Independent sought to stand out in the fiercely competitive UK newspaper market by not aligning to any specific political parties. Its editorial takes a progressive, liberal-leaning stance on the major issues of the day.
The Independent gets around 70% of its revenue from advertising, according to internal figures seen by Insider. Content licensing and syndication account for around a fifth of its revenue. Reader revenue, including the money it generates from its £8.99 ($12.60) a month subscriptions and ecommerce, accounts for around 5% of its turnover. A similar amount of revenue comes from ad sales, data, and technology support it provides to other publishers and businesses.
Last year, The Independent set the wheels in motion for an aggressive international expansion plan. The company has ramped up hiring in the US and India over the past year and has been assessing a move into China.
Its global staff now tallies around 250 people, much smaller than that of competitors like The Guardian Media Group, which had 1,495 employees in year ended March 2020; and The Telegraph Media Group, which had 1,251 people on staff in 2019, according to its most recent financial filing.
Media analyst Thomas Baekdal said The Independent’s nascent acquisitions strategy will depend on its focus.
“Are they just people with money buying things because they have money?,” he said. A better idea, Baekdal added, would be to take its digital publishing model — which was more efficient and profitable than the prior one — and then apply that to the companies it is looking to buy.
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