LONDON NetMediaEurope is on the hunt for acquisitions in Britain and France after beefing up its German presence last week by buying the popular IT websites ZDNet.de, CNET.de and silicon.de.
Chief Executive Dominique Busso also told Reuters in an interview he saw 2012 as a year of consolidation in the business technology publishing market, which has been shrinking as advertising budgets contract, with many titles moving to online-only publication or closing altogether.
"There is really a need for a European player," said Busso, whose company competes with CBS Interactive (CBS.N), International Data Group and Incisive Media. "I really think it is now or never for market consolidation."
He said NetMediaEurope, which has about 14 million unique monthly visitors to its sites across Europe and makes revenue of less than 10 million euros ($13 million), could seek a public listing in Paris to fund further acquisitions.
"We don't exclude the IPO route if we find suitable acquisitions. It could be this year, if there is some kind of window of opportunity," Busso said.
Unlike its U.S. competitors, NetMediaEurope specializes almost entirely in business-to-business titles including The Inquirer, TechWeekEurope and ITespresso. It also owns popular consumer technology site Gizmodo in four European countries.
Busso said he had tried to buy British site silicon.com to complement its ownership of the French and German Silicon brands and beef up its UK presence, but CBS Interactive had not wanted to sell, preferring to fold it into its ZDNet or TechRepublic brand.
A spokesman for CBS Interactive did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The trade press has been hit particularly hard by a years-long decline in advertising spending, as many titles were traditionally free and funded purely by ads.
Business publisher Reed Elsevier (REL.L)ENSL.AS tried in early 2008 to sell its entire portfolio of trade magazines but found it was already too late to get the price it wanted and pulled the sale less than a year later.
NetMediaEurope is considering creating areas of its sites for premium content for which it would charge users.
($1 = 0.7851 euros)
(Editing by David Holmes)