Country Life owner buys Dennis Publishing in £300m deal

Future, the owner of titles including Country Life and Metal Hammer, has acquired the publisher of magazines including The Week and Minecraft World in a £300m deal.

The deal is the latest in a buying spree by Britain’s biggest magazine publisher, which spent almost £600m buying the comparison site GoCompare in November, and will hand a significant profit to Dennis Publishing’s private equity owners Exponent.

Future is buying a portfolio of 12 titles including the adult and junior versions of current affairs title The Week in the US and UK, MoneyWeek, Coach, Computer Active, PC Pro and IT Pro.

Exponent, which acquired the publishing company founded by the late Felix Dennis in 2018 for £166m, is keeping Viz, Fortean Times, Cyclist and Expert Reviews. Dennis’ automotive magazines, which include Auto Express and Octane, have already been spun off into a separate company called Autovia, which is chaired by the former MoneySuperMarket chief executive Peter Plumb.

“I am delighted to announce the acquisition of a high-quality portfolio of Dennis’ trusted brands that will accelerate our strategy,” said Zillah Byng-Thorne, the chief executive of Future.

Future, whose market value has increased from about £30m to £4.7bn over the last seven years, was the top riser on the FTSE 250 on Monday morning as investors welcomed the latest round of consolidation in the publishing sector. The company’s shares rose more than 6%.

“In the three years that the business has been owned by Exponent, Dennis has been on an incredible growth journey, delivering double-digit increases in subscription revenues, a greatly increased US footprint and significant bottom line increases,” said James Tye, the chief executive of Dennis.

Dennis reported revenue growth of 12% to £105m last year, as adjusted profits rose 14% to £20m, according to the financial filing announcing the deal. Future said it expects to make £5m in annualised cost savings at the Dennis business by 2023.

This year Exponent hired LionTree Advisors to find a buyer for Dennis, which attracted interest from publishers including News UK, which evaluated a bid focused on The Week brands.

Daily Mail and General Trust, the publisher of the Mail, Metro and i, considered a bid for Dennis when it was put up for sale three years ago when Exponent emerged as the buyer. In March, DMGT paid £70m for the New Scientist magazine, and spent £49.6m buying the i newspaper two years ago.

Future has been on a buying spree in recent years, with the company seeking to expand in the ailing magazine market while also moving towards a primarily digital model.

The company cemented its place as Britain’s biggest magazine publisher last year after completing a £140m deal to buy TI Media, formerly Time Inc UK, which publishes 40 titles including Horse & Hound, Woman & Home and Wallpaper.

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