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Oct 7 2005
Back from DDC
We just completed DDC2005 in Denver, and while I may be a little close to the subject, I feel it was one of the better DDC events in recent memory. I don't credit TKG for this as much as the circumstances facing this industry. The combination of intense competition within the business, plus an accelerating pace of change in the digital arena, raised the energy level both on the podium and in the hallways.

It wasn't perfect, of course. There were some blue sky platitudes uttered and some selling from the stage. Not every question that needed to be asked was asked. But in general, our speakers delivered a balanced, insightful and often candid view of what is happening in this business. As an event organizer, I can't ask for more than that.

There is a real growing tension between protecting the past and preparing for the future, and this tension is leading to more thoughtfulness and some combativeness. This all was in evidence at the conference. We will be issuing an Advisory asap with some key takeaways from the event, and we will cover many of the specific story lines that emerged from DDC in next week's Local Media Journal.

Thanks to all of you who participated.

Blog: Global Yellow Pages Blog
posted by  Charles Laughlin at  14:46 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [0]

Oct 7 2005
It Wasn't Just a Rumor, RHD Buys Dex
This just in, R.H. Donnelley has acquired Dex Media for equity of $4.2 billion and debt assumption of $5.3 billion, for a total value of $9.5 billion, a multiple of roughly 10 times Dex's 2004 EBITDA. Current RHD CEO Dave Swanson will be CEO, RHD COO Peter McDonald will be COO of the expanded company, and Dex Media CEO George Burnett will be chairman of the board of directors. We will have more coverage in this week's LMJ. We issued an advisory on Sept. 23 exploring the news that talks were under way, taking the safe course and giving it about a 50-50 chance of happening. Apparently the financial drivers of the deal were just too compelling. One clue for us was that RHD brass were scarce at our DDC2005 event last week, despite their initial plans to attend.

Together, RHD and Dex will be the No. 3 player with combined revenues of roughly $2.7 billion, passing BellSouth Advertising & Publishing. Yellow Book remains the No. 5 player, with the top 2 slots held by SBC Directory Operations and Verizon Information Services.

Here is the Dex news release:

Blog: Global Yellow Pages Blog
posted by  Charles Laughlin at  14:43 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]

Sep 30 2005
Consolidation in Nordic Market
The Swedish publisher Eniro AB is buying its Norwegian rival Findexa A/S for a combination of cash and new shares worth roughly 7.9 billion Swedish kroner (about US$1.01 billion). The deal will further strengthen Eniro's position in the Nordic market, giving it the dominant position in print and online directories in Sweden and Norway, along with a challenger position in Denmark and a strong competitor position in Finland.

Eniro CEO Tomas Franzen is positioning the deal as a way to strengthen its home market position, increase cost efficiency and develop a more efficient capital structure. Also, in an era where Eniro's core business in Sweden has faltered, acquisition growth can serve as a substitute for core growth, and the increased scale gives Eniro more customers to reach with multiple product offerings.

Franzen made it clear when he joined Eniro that he would focus on strengthening Eniro's position in its core Nordic market, making peripheral markets non-strategic. Soon after, Eniro sold off many Eastern European operations. An exception was made for Poland, where the Eniro property has performed pretty well. This acquisition is certainly consistent with Franzen's pledge.

Eniro was a very strong print + online player in the Nordic market before this deal. After Findexa, it would appear that all roads to the Nordic SME market lead will go through Stockholm.
Blog: Global Yellow Pages Blog
posted by  Charles Laughlin at  23:32 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [0]

Sep 27 2005
Coen Downgrades U.S. Ad Forecast
We noted several stories last week that reported Universal McCann's longtime ad forecaster Bob Coen had downgraded his 2005 U.S. advertising outlook, which was issued in December 2004. The revised outlook calls for U.S. total advertrising growing by 5.7 percent and international advertising by 5.9 percent. The previous forecast called for growth of 6.4 percent and 5.8 percent, respectively.

Coen cited the lack of Olympic and political advertising, among other factors, for the reduction of U.S. advertising growth. We find this explanation curious, since those factors were clearly visible in December 2004. Other factors noted include higher TV prices and fear of running afoul of Sarbanes-Oxley regulators.

Whatever the cause, the downgrade may not be very significant for the directory industry, since few if any of the cited causes will have a major impact on print or online Yellow Pages. Rather than fear the uncontrollable, the directory business should remain focused on its core challenges, which include finding a relevant position in a rapidly changing marketplace.

There are some signs of success, or at least hopefulness, out there. The Dayton (Ohio) Business Journal just profiled local company Berry Co. The article notes that Berry is considering building a new call center, in large part to handle the additional capacity it will take on to handle sales of, which is co-owned by Berry's parent, BellSouth.
Blog: Global Yellow Pages Blog
posted by  Charles Laughlin at  01:40 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]

Sep 21 2005
RHD Reported in Pursuit of Dex
The Wall Street Journal reported this morning that RH Donnelley is in talks to acquire Dex Media, an acquisition that would propel RHD into the third position in the US directories market, behind SBC and Verizon, ahead of BellSouth and YellowBook.

The Kelsey Report will issue an Advisory that explores the possibilities this deal represents, including the broader implications for the Yellow Pages industry. It is important to note that the deal is far from a certainty, based on the reporting out today. Dex Media CEO George Burnett will speak at a Goldman Sachs investor conference this afternoon, and we will listen in to hear what he has to say.

Blog: Global Yellow Pages Blog
posted by  Charles Laughlin at  16:41 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [0]

Sep 19 2005
Yellow Pages Arbitrage?
Yellow Book USA announced another acquisition this week, purchasing two directories from User-Friendly Phone Book LLC, which is itself a company that has been actively pursuing acquisitions in the U.S. independent sector.

The two properties involved are the Steel Valley and Ohio Valley directories, which have combined distribution of 225,000. What is interesting about this deal is that User-Friendly had acquired these books (and two others) only a few months ago from Champion Directories, a small Ohio-based independent.

We do not know the values of the two deals, so we have no way of knowing if User-Friendly made or lost money here (our guess is they made money). The quick flip by User-Friendly suggests it is either engaging in arbitrage Yellow Pages style, or perhaps it simply didn't see these two directories fitting into its long-range plans and sold them to the most logical buyer on the market today.

The deals certainly underscore the observation that deal flow in the U.S. independent sector is constrained only by the availability of willing sellers and properties the consolidators are interested in buying. So far, the supply of neither appears to have been exhausted.

Blog: Global Yellow Pages Blog
posted by  Charles Laughlin at  10:05 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]

Sep 19 2005
PE Group Buys Yellow Brick Road
Also this week, a group of private equity buyers acquired Yellow Brick Road, the European directory holding company, from its existing PE owners, paying them 1.8 billion euros, more than four times the cash investment of current owners Veronis Suhler and 3i Group. The buyers are led by the Australian investment fund Macquarie Capital Alliance Group. The healthy returns keep coming for those investing in old-line Yellow Pages companies. YBR includes the companies Fonecta, Telefoongids Media and Mediatel, acquired over a two-year period by 3i and Veronis. The companies were rolled up into Yellow Brick Road last year.

TKG will provide more coverage of this deal and the Yell acquisition of TransWestern Publishing in an upcoming Advisory and in this week's Local Media Journal.

Blog: Global Yellow Pages Blog
posted by  Charles Laughlin at  10:05 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]

Sep 11 2005
Google and Yell Group
I saw this item on, which reports that Google may be pursuing an acquisition of Yell Group, the UK-based company that operates Yell in the UK and Yellow Book in the US.

We do not yet know whether this is substantive or pure speculation that has taken on a life of its own. We hope to find out soon enough. What adds some weight to the rumor is Google's existing relationship with Yell in the UK.

What we do know is that a deal like this makes sense, at least on paper. Google has a powerful online brand, vast organic traffic and the ability to rapidly deploy new technologies. Yell Group, solves the "last mile" problem for search engines moving into local. Yellow Book is uniquely attractive because of its wide geographic coverage, and Yell is ubiquitous in the UK.

So theoretically, this makes sense. Whether it will happen remains to be seen.
Blog: Global Yellow Pages Blog
posted by  Charles Laughlin at  13:19 | permalink | comments [4] | trackbacks [0]

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