The widely predicted sale of Clarion by Providence Equity to another private equity firm has been confirmed with Blackstone Group acquiring the business, reportedly for close to £600m which would represent a multiple in excess of 13x EBITDA. Providence acquired Clarion from Veronis Suhler Stevenson in January 2015 for £200m and, although these are headline numbers and will be gross of the debt that the company has built up in respect of the 18 acquisitions made since Providence invested, it provides a handsome return for Providence who are exited earlier than expected.
The multiple is quite a bit higher than its entry multiple and is close to the multiple that UBM recently paid for the US$485m Allworld acquisition in Asia.
Blackstone is one of the world’s largest PE firms with funds of more than US$368bn under management. It narrowly lost out to UBM in the final stage of the Allworld process but quickly bounced back at the beginning of June annoucing they would acquire Hong Kong based exhibition organiser Global Sources.
Global Sources organises sourcing shows for Chinese and Hong Kong companies covering sectors such as Electronics, Gifts and Home and Fashion. The company is quoted on Nasdaq in the USA with a Market Capitalisation of approximately $470m. According to reports, Global Sources will be privatised after which Blackstone will be the new controlling shareholder.
This set of transactions is Blackstone’s first major move into exhibitions and means they are represented across the world with two strong axis points in the UK and Hong Kong. Many of the acquisitions made by Clarion under Providence were quite small and, in order to move the needle after these two deals, Blackstone will be looking for much bigger follow-on purchases.
Non-core disposals from the larger organisers seem to be becoming more prevalent. Centaur Media sold its UK B2C Home Interest division comprising seven exhibitions, print and digital to Future plc for £32m and Ascential has announced the sale of its remaining 11 UK-based ‘heritage brands’ – those associated with the original EMAP brand such as Drapers, Nursing Times and Construction News – to publishing group Metropolis for £23.5m. The only print title that is being retained is Retail Week which will be run alongside Ascential’s digital brands Planet Retail and One Click Retail.
Finally, Comexposium moved into Indonesia in a big way forming a joint venture involving Indonesia’s largest exhibition – the Gaikindo Indonesia International Auto Show (GIIAS) run by Amara Pameran International (API). This represents their first major acquisition in Asia since PE firm Charterhouse acquired 50 per cent of Comexposium from Unibail in May 2015.
16 Mar 2018