As recently as 12 months ago, an M&A deal between Future plc and Dennis Publishing might have been regarded as an e-commerce blockbuster.
Instead, the 12-title, nine-figure deal announced today between the two companies shows how much more important first-party data is becoming to publishers, while also giving Future audience fortification in some verticals, such as finance, and a foothold in others, such as news.
The key details:
- Future acquired a portfolio of Dennis-owned brands for £300 million ($416 million), less than three years after Exponent, Dennis Publishing’s parent company, bought Dennis for £167.4 ($231.9 million). The portfolio includes The Week and Kiplinger, as well as niche interest publications including IT Pro and Minecraft World.
- The deal does not include any of the automotive brands, such as Auto Express, or technology, such as Buyacar, that for years served as significant pieces of Dennis’s business. Dennis’s parent company, Exponent, spun its automotive assets out into a separate entity called Autovia earlier this spring.
- The Dennis assets are the second acquisition Future has made this year — it bought Marie Claire’s U.S. operation in May — and the second major UK media acquisition Future has made in the past two years, following its purchase of TI Media (formerly known as Time Inc. UK) in 2019 for £140 million ($194 million). Future has acquired $1 billion worth of assets over the past five years.
- Dennis’s sites and Future are both solidly profitable. The portfolio of sites Future is acquiring reported an unaudited adjusted EBITDA of $27.7 million against revenues of $145 million in 2020, while Future posted operating profit of $50.7 million on revenues of $469.9 million in 2020.
Without the brands and tech now rolled into Autovia, the portfolio Future is acquiring generates the lion’s share of its revenues from subscriptions to its sites, magazines and newsletters. The 12 brands have 1.2 million subscribers between them.
That base of consumer data and revenue should complement the subscription and affiliate commerce revenues that Future generated. Its sites drove close to $1 billion in ecommerce sales last year, thanks in part to the surge of online sales driven by the pandemic.
While some of the titles Future is acquiring, particularly Kiplinger and Money Week, will be easy to integrate into existing sales strategy, some, such as The Week, may fit less naturally into the existing portfolio.
But over time, the additions could help wring more value out of the audience scale that Future has assembled. The publisher now claims to reach one out of every three U.S. consumers. Much of its scale is consolidated in categories such as technology and gaming.
The acquisition also broadly continues a trend seen across media, where publishers serving niche audiences have become more desirable.
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