Media & Telecom

Forbes to go public via $630 mln SPAC merger to expand consumer business

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The logo of Forbes magazine is seen on a board at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum 2017 (SPIEF 2017) in St. Petersburg, Russia, June 1, 2017. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin/File Photo

Aug 26 (Reuters) - The publisher of Forbes magazine will go public through a merger with a blank-check firm in a deal that values the combined entity at $630 million, the companies said on Thursday, the latest example of media companies catching the boom of special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs).

Forbes, one of the oldest media outlets in the United States, will merge with Hong Kong-based Magnum Opus Acquisition Ltd (OPA.N), a SPAC led by Jonathan Lin, a former executive at billionaire Steven Cohen's Point72.

The deal will allow Forbes to invest further in building consumer-focused products as the company reduces reliance on media revenue, Forbes Chief Executive Mike Federle said in an interview.

With print revenue sliding, the business news outlet has been doubling down on live events and leveraging its brand and reader base to build consumer products in areas including education and e-commerce. It reported $163 million in revenue in 2020 and expects it to grow to $193 million this year.

"We've created this audience and business scale with 150 million people. This funding will allow us to create bespoke products that address these different industry cohorts as we focus on direct-to-consumer conversion," said Federle.

Jersey City, New Jersey-based Forbes was founded in 1917 by B.C. Forbes, and his family retains a minority share. The magazine is led by his grandson, Steve Forbes, currently chairman and editor-in-chief, who made failed runs for U.S. president in 1996 and 2000 in the Republican primary.

The Forbes company was valued at $475 million when Hong Kong-based investor group Integrated Whale Media Investments bought a majority stake in 2014.

The company was also in talks with other bidders, including a consortium led by tech investor Michael Moe, which would have allowed it to stay private, Reuters reported in April.

With the SPAC deal, Forbes joins other media outlets, including BuzzFeed, which agreed to a blank-check merger in June, and Vox Media, which is also reported to be pursuing such a merger.

In a sign of renewed deal interest in the digital media sector, German publisher Axel Springer said on Thursday it will acquire U.S. political news website Politico. read more

The Forbes deal is expected to bring $600 million in proceeds and includes a private investment in public equity of $400 million.

The unusually large PIPE comes at a time when the broader SPAC market has been weighed down by heightened regulatory pressure and saturated demand, with companies struggling to attract the interest of leading Wall Street institutional investors.

Forbes shareholders will own nearly 22% of the combined company, assuming no redemptions by Magnum's investors, and the company will be left with $145 million in cash. Magnum raised $200 million in a March IPO.

SPACs raise funds in an IPO with the aim of merging with a private company, which then becomes public.

After the deal closes, Forbes will list on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol "FRBS."

Reporting by Niket Nishant in Bengaluru and Krystal Hu in New York; Editing by Shailesh Kuber

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