Thursday, 11 May 2017

Airbnb investor TPG in talks about $5.25bn Vice Media stake



A US private equity group which owns a stake in Airbnb is in talks about buying a shareholding in Vice Media, the millennials-focused news and entertainment group, that would value it at about $5.25bn (£4.1bn)
 
Sky News has learnt that TPG, which manages investments valued at more than $70bn, has joined a cluster of buyout firms examining a deal to acquire about 10% of Vice for just over $500m (£387m).


The talks have been taking place for several weeks, with other prospective bidders for the minority stake including CVC Capital Partners, according to people close to the situation.


One source said on Thursday that TPG - which in the UK has owned businesses including the department store chain Debenhams - was now among the frontrunners to clinch a deal with Vice.


Known for its maverick reporting of subjects ranging from North Korea to Japanese tattooing, Vice became the first digital media brand to put its name to its own television channel.


It was unclear which of TPG's platforms was leading the talks with Vice, although one industry observer suggested that it was likely to be TPG Growth, a vehicle used to hold its stakes in technology companies like Airbnb and Box.


The talks with prospective investors come as Vice seeks funds to plough into its international expansion, as well as a move into scripted programming, another strand of content creation into which the at-times controversial company is expanding.


A deal with a new investor is expected in the next few weeks will be seen by media industry-watchers as another step along the road towards an initial public offering of shares in Vice, which was founded in 1994 as a "punk zine" for music enthusiasts in Montreal, Canada.


One insider said there was "no doubt" that the talks with TPG, CVC and others were part of a "pre-IPO" round of funding, with a move to list its shares in New York likely as soon as next year.


People close to Vice cautioned that no firm decision has been made by Shane Smith, Vice's co-founder and chief executive, about‎ whether to go public, and there has been persistent speculation that The Walt Disney Company - already a shareholder in Vice - will seek to buy the company outright.


In the UK, Viceland launched last year ‎in partnership with Sky, the owner of Sky News.


Vice last raised money in 2015, when Disney spent $400m (£318m) on doubling its stake in the company to roughly 10%.


That transaction valued Vice at $4.2bn (£3.3bn), underlining the rapid growth in its appeal to media companies and financial investors alike.
 
 
The brand's keen following among millennials - consumers who are hard to reach through traditional marketing channels but who are highly valued for their spending power - has explained its rise as one of the media sector's fastest-growing companies of the last decade.


It employs more than 2,500 people around the world.


Vice's other shareholders include 21st Century Fox, which is currently trying to acquire full control of Sky,‎ the marketing services giant WPP Group and Technology Crossover Ventures, a leading investor in digital businesses.


The Raine Group, a merchant bank which is helping to lead the latest fundraising, is also a shareholder.


Vice is targeting a presence in more than 80 countries by the end of this year‎, with digital, mobile and television offerings all on the agenda.


Last month, it announced plans to expand its mobile content presence to reach hundreds of millions of new customers, with a particular focus on the Asia-Pacific region.


Unveiling the strategy, Mr Smith said‎: "When we first started to roll out our global terrestrial TV programme, people thought I was nuts, 'going backwards', and a victim of my own hubris.


"Our first batch of international mobile deals will now marry without TV platforms and digital platforms to offer a...platform-agnostic media company that offers our content at all times - everywhere."


Vice already operates a network of 13 digital channels covering subjects such as news‎ and sport, a global TV brand, a production division and a creative services agency.


In addition to Sky plc, its partners include The Times of India Group, Moby Group in the Middle East, HBO, Canal+, Snapchat and Verizon Wireless.




SKY     News.