UK’s Analytics Firm Ascential to Sell Digital Commerce, Product Design Ventures for $1.7 Billion
UK’s Ascential has announced its plans to sell digital commerce and product design businesses to Omnicom and Apax in a $1.70 billion deal.
UK-based information and analytics firm Ascential today announced it is entering into agreements to sell its digital commerce business to US-listed Omnicom Group and its product design business to Wind UK Bidco 3 Limited, a newly-formed company established by funds advised by Apax Partners LLP. The deal is subject to shareholder approval.
According to the firm, it will sell both units for a combined enterprise value of 1.4 billion pounds ($1.7 billion) as it needs to focus on its events business.
The digital commerce business would be sold for an enterprise value of $900 million, and the consumer research unit – WGSN – would be sold for up to 700 million pounds.
Upon the successful completion of these deals, the intent is to distribute approximately 850 million pounds to shareholders, it added.
“The Board firmly believes that the proposed sales of Digital Commerce and WGSN represent excellent value for shareholders, including the return of a significant portion of the combined proceeds,” said Scott Forbes, Ascential’s Chairman.
“Furthermore, these actions are compelling in that they will enable us to achieve the objectives of the strategic review, addressing the distinct investment propositions of Ascential’s three businesses while also better positioning each business to achieve their growth ambitions,” Forbes added.
Company’s CEO to join Omnicom
Ascential also announced that its CEO, Duncan Painter, is set to join Omnicom in a new capacity as the chief of Flywheel Digital, a recently established division within the U.S.-based company responsible for managing the digital commerce business.
This follows the earlier announcement by Ascential regarding the appointment of Philip Thomas, the current CEO of its intelligence and events business, as the next chief executive of the group.
Duncan Painter said that the company felt delighted to find excellent owners for both Digital Commerce and WGSN that will allow each business to flourish and take the next steps to pursue their own individual ambitions.
Omnicom’s and Digital Commerce’s complementary technology and data platforms, together with their strong client relationships, will be instrumental in accelerating the realisation of Digital Commerce’s strategy, and WGSN is also well set for its next chapter of growth under new ownership.
“Ascential’s continuing business with its world-leading Events brands remains well-positioned to succeed as a high-quality, independent UK-listed business,” Painter added.
The recent divestment of WGSN is a crucial component of the break-up strategy unveiled in January, initially including plans for the separation and U.S. listing of its digital commerce assets.
Additionally, Ascential said that media management firm Hudson MX, has initiated the sale of its Hudson business, which Ascential maintains a 36.5% stake. Ascential’s statement confirmed the involvement of Omnicom in this sale process without providing further details.
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