| DETROIT, March 8
DETROIT, March 8 R.L. Polk & Co, owner of
used-car history provider Carfax and a leading provider of auto
industry data, is exploring its options, including selling the
company or taking it public.
The suburban Detroit company has hired New York investment
banking firm Evercore Partners to explore its options, which
could include a sale, an initial public offering or
acquisitions, Polk Vice President Lonnie Miller said.
"We're exploring strategic growth opportunities," Miller
said. "There's no defined time line.
"There was no catalyst that made this happen," he added.
"We're trying to see how we can accelerate some of the growth,
and all the options are on the table. Everything's fair game."
Industry experts say Polk, family-owned for more than 140
years, could attract bids of about $1 billion. Companies that
may have an interest include private equity firms, Automatic
Data Processing, Reynolds and Reynolds, Dealertrack
Technologies, KAR Auction Services, McGraw-Hill
Cos Inc's J.D. Power and Associates, Cars.com and Cox
Enterprises, which owns AutoTrader.com and Manheim.
Polk does not disclose financial information about the
company, but Miller said the balance sheet was positive and the
business was "very healthy." According to Automotive News, Polk
generated revenue of $359 million in 2011.
Known to consumers through the Carfax business that provides
the ownership and repair histories of vehicles, Polk also tracks
registration data in every U.S. state in order to provide
information on the types of cars purchased. It uses the data to
forecast sales, help automakers with recalls, and track owner
"They have something everybody likes," said Marc Cannon,
senior vice president at U.S. dealership group AutoNation
. "They've got themselves a niche.
"They have a real good reputation in the industry," he
added. "They're very insightful. What they do with registrations
is valuable to the industry."
Polk, based in Southfield, Michigan, was founded by Ralph
Lane Polk in 1870 as a publisher of city directories. In the
early 1920s, Alfred Sloan, president of General Motors,
asked Ralph Polk to track auto data, and he built the company
into a critical provider of information for the industry.
The company has remained in the family. Ralph Polk's great
grandson, Stephen Polk, became chairman and chief executive in
Polk employs about 1,250 people globally, with offices in
the United States, Canada, Western Europe, Australia, Japan and
China. It is focused solely on the auto sector after selling its
consumer information unit in 2000 to business information
provider Equifax for $260 million.