Bauer’s Aust operation sold to private equity

German multimedia conglomerate, Bauer Media, has announced it has sold the Australian magazine business that was once owned by Kerry Packer’s Consolidated Press to private equity firm Mercury Capital.

The announcement of the company’s exit from Australia comes after it finalised the acquisition of Pacific Magazines from Seven West Media in April right as the publishing industry was pummeled by COVID-19 and a subsequent drop in advertising revenue.

The purchase of Pacific Magazines went ahead notwithstanding the downturn, taking the total number of mastheads owned by Bauer to 43, including some of Australia’s most iconic – The Australian Woman’s Weekly, New Idea and Woman’s Day.

In announcing the sale, Bauer Media Group chief operating officer Veit Dengler said in a statement: “We have been proud to be the custodian of these iconic titles in Australia. I am confident that under Mercury’s ownership they will continue to thrive.”

Bauer Media has its current local printing contract with Ovato and publishes magazines including Woman’s Day, the Australian Woman’s Weekly and New Idea, while IVE Group holds the contract for the printing of the Pacific Magazines stable.

Since COVID-19 the printing of a number of magazines has been put on hold, with no news yet on when these will return to the presses.

Bauer Media ANZ chief executive officer Brendon Hill was upbeat about the sale saying it gives the company increased flexibility to diversify and innovate its multi-platform offerings.

“This signals an exciting new chapter for the business. With new ownership and our bolstered portfolio, we have unparalleled opportunities to connect with more Australians than ever before and continue our strategy of digital growth and innovation,” Hill said in a statement.

“We have increased flexibility to diversify revenue streams and grow and innovate across our multi-platform offerings. Additionally, we are well placed to invest in the key drivers of future success – high-quality content and digital development which is good for us, our audiences, clients and the Australian industry as a whole.”

The binding offer from Mercury Capital involves all of Bauer Media Australia’s titles from across the Women’s Entertainment & Lifestyle; Fashion, Beauty & Health; Homes; Food; Motoring & Trader lifestyle categories. The agreement also includes those titles recently acquired by Bauer from Pacific Magazines, as well as Bauer’s New Zealand mastheads.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit magazine and newspaper publishing hard with the printing of a number of titles on hold.

Hill said despite the challenges, the company had seen growth in subscriptions and digital audiences.

“Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, we have seen significant growth in subscriptions and digital audiences across our food, home, youth and fashion brands, demonstrating that Australians still love and read our brands. We have seen great vision, success and growth under Bauer Media Group ownership and now look forward to working alongside Mercury Capital to build on this growth under a new brand in the future,” Hill said.

The sale is subject to regulatory approval with the transaction expected to be complete in mid-July and the new brand to be announced in the coming months.

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