Magazine giants linked to £100m bid for puzzle publisher

LONDON – Emap, Future and IPC Media have been tipped to make bids for specialist publisher Puzzler Media, which has been put up for sale with a £100m price tag by private equity company ABN Amro as the buzz from Sudoku heats up interest.

Puzzler, which claims it accounts for more than 50% of the puzzle book market, owns more than 40 puzzle titles including 30-year-old title The Puzzler, which has a circulation of 131,511. 

Most recently, the company has benefited from the demand for Sudoku puzzles, which it supplies from a Japanese partner.

It supplies puzzles to IPC, from which it has licensed magazine brands including Chat as puzzle titles, and News International, the owner of The Times and The Sun. It is also expanding its interactive sales with customers including Sky.

ABN Amro has appointed Hawkpoint to handle a possible sale, having invested in Puzzler in April 2002 when it funded a management buyout from Finnish media group Sanoma Magazines that valued the company at £36.7m. Its turnover has since grown from £16.9m in 2002 to £19.2m in 2004.

It is expected to sell for a sum in the region of £100m, also boosting the fortunes of managing director Mel Lewis and finance director Peter Nugent.

Press reports have linked private equity companies with a bid, as well as IPC, Emap and Future. However, Future could be out of the running, having just spent £30.5m on 38 titles from Highbury House. IPC said it did not comment on market speculation.

H Bauer is second in the puzzle market, according to Puzzler Media, with a one-third share.

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