Informa and UBM Revive Merger Talks in Event-Market Shakeup

(Bloomberg) -- Publisher and conference organizer Informa Plc is in discussions to buy rival UBM Plc, reviving a tie-up abandoned a decade ago that would unite two event-management heavyweights.

Informa would pay 1.083 shares and 163 pence for each UBM share, or 972.5 pence, the companies said Wednesday in a statement. That represents a 30 percent premium to UBM’s closing price on Monday, before the talks were disclosed.

A deal would shake up the event-management industry centered in London, which both UBM and Informa have been consolidating. UBM, the world’s second-largest organizer after Relx Plc’s Reed Exhibitions, halted talks to merge in June 2008 with Informa, which runs about 200 trade and consumer shows annually, after the target company was approached by another potential buyer.

“It’s a big deal, but it’s not a shocker,” said Jonathan Helliwell, a media analyst at Panmure Gordon in London. “This was always a potential deal in the future. It’s a consolidation of the highly-fragmented events market if it happens.”

The companies said on Tuesday they were in discussions, after UBM shares gained 5.2 percent, bringing its market capitalization to about 3.1 billion pounds ($4.27 billion), about half the size of Informa.

Discussions are ongoing and a final offer requires approval from the boards of both companies. Under U.K. takeover rules, Informa has until 5 p.m. on Feb. 13 to either announce a definite intention to make a bid for UBM or walk away.

The combined group would be owned 65.5 percent by Informa shareholders and 34.5 percent by UBM shareholders. The merger is expected to result in “significant synergies,” the companies said.

Informa has been expanding under Chief Executive Officer Stephen Carter with acquisitions such as Penton Information Services in 2016. The global exhibitions division, which runs trade shows such as the China Beauty Expo and World of Concrete in Las Vegas, contributed 23 percent of the company’s total revenues in 2016, making it the second-largest unit after its academic publishing business.

Carter would be CEO of the combined group.

UBM hosts more than 300 business-to-business events worldwide and has been selling off other businesses like PR Newswire, a press release distribution unit, to sharpen its focus on events. The company became the biggest exhibitions organizer in the U.S. when it acquired Advanstar Communications Inc., the U.S. trade-show company, for $972 million in 2014.

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