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Oct 14 2005
Income Trust Under Fire in Canada
Speaking at a recent "investor day" event in Canada, Yellow Pages Group CEO Marc Tellier urged the national government to go easy on the income trust model, which has become a popular tax-advantaged ownership structure in Canada. Tellier is clearly concerned that the government, which is making noise that the trusts cost the treasury, will kill (or at least injure) a goose that has laid golden eggs for investors, including those in YPG. Here is a link to the story.

Blog: Global Yellow Pages Blog
posted by  Charles Laughlin at  15:26 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]

Oct 14 2005
Article Looks at Minibook Battle in Bay Area
Interesting article in the San Francisco Chronicle about how some advertisers and competitors are responding to the growth of companion books. The article suggests SBC's use of companions as a competitive weapon against its rival Valley Yellow Pages may be working but not without collateral damage. Some advertisers, it says, resent the introduction of another product they feel they can't afford not to buy.

The companion issue is becoming a big one, at least in the U.S. market, as incumbent publishers roll them out aggressively as a direct challenge to independents. Here is the link.

Blog: Global Yellow Pages Blog
posted by  Charles Laughlin at  15:22 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]

Oct 14 2005
The Debate: Ads on Covers
At the recent Directory Driven Commerce conference, Ezana Raswork of Canada's Yellow Pages Group gave a presentation detailing how YPG has phased out the inclusion of paid advertising on its directories' front covers. Part of the logic is that the front cover is valuable real estate for promoting the directory brand (not the brand of a local cosmetic surgeon) as well as usage of the directory itself.

We plan to explore this issue in more depth in upcoming TKG coverage. We are curious, in the meantime, what your views are on the topic. Are front cover ads an abomination, or is this a silly fuss over "branding" a commodity product, so why not take the revenue? Submit your comments to let us know what you think.

Blog: Global Yellow Pages Blog
posted by  Charles Laughlin at  15:10 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]

Oct 14 2005
Eniro Sweeping Away Noncore Assets
Swedish publisher Eniro has been very consistent in pursuing its strategy of shedding assets in small, emerging Eastern European markets so management can focus on making the company the biggest and best publisher in the Nordic markets. To this end, the company recently sold off its Russian operation to a local investor for 5 million euros.

The sale price indicates the problem Eniro faced. Management was spread thin trying to stay on top of operations in markets with revenues of only a few million euros with little hope the operations would gain any real scale anytime soon.

In the meantime, Eniro faced an eroding core product in Sweden, looming competition from search engines and a brutal battle in Finland with its chief rival there. So no more Latvia, Estonia, Russia and the like. Now Eniro is doing deals like its recent acquisition of Findexa, which is right in the company's strategic wheelhouse.
Blog: Global Yellow Pages Blog
posted by  Charles Laughlin at  15:02 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]

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]

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