* Trade publisher plans sale to lenders
* Has $299 mln in assets, $321 mln in liabilities
* Owned by private equity firm Audax Group Inc (Updates with company comment, details)
By Tom Hals
WILMINGTON, Del., Oct 5 (Reuters) - Trader publisher Questex Media filed for bankruptcy on Monday and plans to sell the U.S. company to holders of its debt, according to court documents.
The Newton, Massachusetts company publishes 23 print magazines such as American Spa and Hotel & Motel Management and sponsors 28 conferences, according to court documents. It also has more than 150 trade websites.
The company and eight affiliates listed assets of $299 million and liabilities of $321 million.
The company said it planned to sell the company to a group sponsored by the first-lien lenders, who it said may also be the providers of its debtor-in-possession, or DIP, loan.
Bankrupt companies use DIP loans to finance everyday operations.
It said Credit Suisse was the administrative agent for the first-lien loan.
The company said it is facing a “severe contraction in liquidity” and had pledged all of its assets to existing lenders, leaving no choice but to begin the process of selling the company in bankruptcy.
“This restructuring will better position the business for future growth for the benefit of all of the company’s stakeholders,” said Questex chief executive officer, Kerry Gumas, in a statement.
It was formed in 2005 by Audax Group Inc, a private equity firm based in Boston, which bought business units from Advanstar Holdings Inc for $185 million. Since then it has been buying companies that host industry conferences as well as trade information providers.
Questex Media listed $56.6 million of bank debt as its largest unsecured claim. Former shareholders of FierceMarkets, a trade publisher Questex Media acquired in 2008, are owed $7.5 million.
Moody’s downgraded Questex Media’s credit rating in December, in part due to the debt-financed acquisition of FierceMarkets and also due to falling advertising revenues.
Moody’s said proforma revenues for the year to Sept. 30, 2008 were approximately $145 million.
The case is: In re Questex Media Group Inc, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware, No. 09-13423.
Editing Bernard Orr