GTCR in the lead to acquire jobs website CareerBuilder: sources

(Reuters) - Private equity firm GTCR LLC is in exclusive talks to acquire U.S. job-hunting website CareerBuilder LLC for more than $1 billion, according to people familiar with the matter, in what would be the latest deal in the online recruitment sector.

The sale would allow CareerBuilder’s owners - TV station operator Tegna Inc, broadcasting company Tribune Media Co and newspaper group The McClatchy Co - to cash out from what they regard as a non-core business.

GTCR has prevailed in an auction for CareerBuilder, and is in the process of trying to finalize the terms of a deal, the people said this week, cautioning that it is still possible that the negotiations end without an agreement.

The sources asked not to be identified because the negotiations are confidential. Tegna and Tribune Media declined to comment, while GTCR, CareerBuilder and McClatchy did not respond to requests for comment.

The potential deal for CareerBuilder comes as many popular job websites become acquisition targets amid challenges in translating user growth into profits. Last September, credit ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service Inc called CareerBuilder’s operating performance “weak”.

In examples of other deals in the jobs website sector, Microsoft Corp acquired LinkedIn Corp for $26.2 billion last December, while Randstad Holding NV took over Monster Worldwide Inc for $429 million in November.

DHI Group Inc, the operator of the information technology and engineering job website Dice, said in November it was carrying out a review to explore strategic alternatives.

Tegna announced last year that it would explore options for its 53-percent stake in CareerBuilder, and said it expected to complete its strategic review in the first half of 2017. It also said it would spin off its auto-sales website These two businesses represent close to 40 percent of Tegna’s revenue mix.

CareerBuilder generated revenues from its subscription offering of $162 million in 2016, up 8 percent from 2015, according to regulatory filings. The vast majority of its revenue is in the United States.

CareerBuilder has been expanding into new areas in recent years. Last year it bought Aurico, a background screening and drug testing service for an undisclosed sum. It also acquired a 75-percent stake in WorkTerra, a maker of software for benefits and compliance.

Tegna has said that any proceeds from a sale of CareerBuilder would provide it with “even further financial flexibility.”

Reporting by Liana B. Baker in San Francisco and Greg Roumeliotis in New York; Editing by Nick Zieminski