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Ascential puts 13 titles up for sale as print advertising plummets

Drapers magazine is one of the print titles up for sale

Ascential is to sell 13 of its "heritage brands" from its portfolio leaving the business publisher and events company with just one title, Retail Week, as a result of a colossal drop in print advertising across the brands.

Those brands up for sale include; fashion title Drapers; middle eastern business title Meed; government title Local Government Chronicle; health titles HSJ and Nursing Times; trade titles New Civil Engineering, Ground Engineering, Construction News, H&V News and RAC, Materials Recycling World; architecture titles Architects' Journal, The Architectural Review and the associated World Architecture Festival.

The “heritage brands” have seen revenue slide in the past few years, from £29m in the first half of 2015 to £26m in the first half of 2016.

Meanwhile print advertising in the 12 months to 30 June 2016 generated only £9m in revenue down from £11.6m in 2015, accounting for less than 3% of total group revenue, down from more than 4% at June 2015.

The titles will develop independent business strategies separate from the publisher until buyers are found.

The publisher’s chief executive Duncan Painter said it was selling off the 13 titles to focus on its “largest brands and those with the highest growth potential”. These include the Cannes Lions advertising festival, fashion information business WGSN, environmental data business Groundsure and construction advisor Glenigan.

Ascential’s top five products represented 56% of group revenue in the 12 months to 30 June 2016.

"This move will further focus our portfolio on our largest market leading products,” Painter commented. “The heritage brands, with large, loyal audience communities, provide an exciting opportunity for new owners."

In 2015, amid its rebranding from Emap to Ascential, Painter spoke of an ambition to transition its print portfolio to digital-only brands over a two-year period.

Last year the Cannes Lions-owner launched an £800m IPO. Guardian Media Group, which owned 32.9 per cent of Ascential, and private equity group Apax, which owned about two-thirds, sold a 25 per cent stake in the company worth £80m. Apax now owns below 15% of the company, while Guardian's stake in the business is below 9%.

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