Springer Nature asks JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley to organize IPO: sources

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - SpringerNature, the publisher of science magazines Nature and Scientific American, has asked JP Morgan JPM.N and Morgan Stanley MS.N to organize a potential 4-5 billion euro stock market listing next year, people close to the matter said.

The SpringerNature joint venture is 53-percent owned by German publisher Holtzbrinck, with buyout group BC Partners holding the rest.

It was formed in 2015 through the merger of Holtzbrinck’s Macmillan Science and Education unit with BC Partners’ Springer business, which publishes scientific, technical and medical books and journals.

The creation of SpringerNature was designed to make it easier to compete with the likes of RELX REL.L and Wolters Kluwer WLSNc.AS, as publishers move more and more into digital content and readers increasingly use smartphones and tablets to access information.

BC Partners declined to comment on the listing plan, while Holtzbrinck was not immediately available for comment. The banks also declined to comment.

Springer Nature is considering a capital increase of 700-800 million euros as part of the Frankfurt initial public offering next summer, one source close to the matter said.

The source added that while BC Partners will sell some shares in the IPO, Holtzbrinck may even buy some and is aiming to keep a stake of more than 40 percent in the company. The targeted free float is at least 25 percent.

The bulk of the proceeds would be used to cut net debt, which currently stands at roughly 3 billion euros ($3.6 billion), with a view to bringing indebtedness down to 3.75 times earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization after the IPO, the source said.

Springer Nature is targeting adjusted 2017 EBITDA of just below 600 million euros, after 564 million in 2016, the source added.

Peers such as RELX trade at about 12 times expected core earnings. At a similar multiple, Springer could be valued at more than 7 billion euros including debt in a potential IPO.

While Holtzbrinck will not contribute other parts of its digital activities to the Springer Nature joint venture ahead of an IPO, such a move could be agreed at a later stage, the source said.

An outright sale of Springer Nature is not being considered.

SpringerNature posted 1.62 billion euros in sales last year and employs 13,000 staff. It publishes roughly 3,000 scientific magazines as well as 12,000 new books every year.

In 2015, BC Partners said that it targeted a stock market listing of the business within two to three years. At the time, the company was valued at more than 5 billion euros including debt.

SpringerNature is a separate company from German publisher Axel Springer SPRGn.DE.

Additional reporting by Dasha Afanasieva; Editing by Maria Sheahan and Keith Weir