NEW YORK/LONDON (July 29, 2003) VS&A Communications Partners III, LP, the private equity fund affiliated with New York-based media merchant bank Veronis Suhler Stevenson, and 3i Group plc, Europe’s leading venture capital company, today announced the completion of an agreement to purchase six European directory operations of Verizon Information Services, a unit of Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ). The acquisition includes a separate simultaneous transaction in which VSS and 3i also purchased Telekom Austria’s 26 percent stake in Herold AG, as a result of which, VSS and 3i own 100 percent of the Austrian operations. Terms of the transaction were undisclosed.
The transaction continues the strategic relationship between Veronis Suhler Stevenson and 3i Group in the European directory sector. With the close of this transaction, Veronis Suhler Stevenson and 3i Group will have invested together in eight European directory companies, totaling 313 directories with a combined circulation of approximately 32 million.
The acquisitions consist of Verizon directory operations in Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Gibraltar, which combined employ approximately 2,000 people in total. As part of the acquisition, Veronis Suhler Stevenson and 3i Group have created a new holding company that will be based in Austria, under which each of the separate operations will conduct business using their existing company names and directory brands. Gerhard Weisschaedel, who previously served as Chief Executive Officer of Deutsche Telekom Medien, the publishing and multimedia division of Deutsche Telecom, and a Managing Director of Veronis Suhler Stevenson, was named CEO of the new group. Jan Froeshaug, who is a member of Veronis Suhler Stevenson’s Board of Advisors and former CEO of the Eggmont Group, a leading Danish publishing and media entertainment corporation, will serve as non-Executive Chairman.
“The European directory publishing sector is well-positioned for future growth, and each of these businesses hold exceptional leadership positions in their respective markets,” said Marco Sodi, Partner of Veronis Suhler Stevenson. “We are pleased to provide the management team with the necessary resources to support the growth of these companies as independent businesses, and to share our earlier experiences building leading directories in the U.S and Europe.”
Chris Graham, director of 3i Group’s Media Team, added, “This is a landmark deal which is a further example of our commitment to the media sector. Investing alongside Veronis Suhler Stevenson, one of the leading media investors, demonstrates our knowledge and ability to execute another media directories deal. We know the industry well, and having looked at a variety of opportunities, we believe this business to be one of the fastest growing in the marketplace.”
In February 2003, Veronis Suhler Stevenson and 3i Group completed the purchase of Netherlands-based De Telefoongids Media BV (formerly TeleMedia), the telephone directory company of Royal KPN N.V., for €500 million ($560.5 million). In March 2002, Veronis Suhler Stevenson and 3i Group co-invested in the €111.5 million ($125 million) buyout of Finland-based Sonera Info Communications Ltd., renamed Fonecta Oy, one of Finland’s largest directory publishers and one of Europe's leading telephone directory services providers.
Veronis Suhler Stevenson has a strong and active history in the U.S. directory publishing sector. The firm’s second private equity fund, VS&A Communications Partners II LP, acquired Yellow Book USA, one of the largest independent telephone directory publishers in the eastern U.S., in 1997. The company was sold to British Telecommunications in 1999 for approximately $665 million.
CIBC World Markets is the sole underwriter of the senior and mezzanine financing placed in conjunction with the transaction.
About Veronis Suhler Stevenson:
VS&A Communications Partners III, LP is the third private equity fund managed by Veronis Suhler Stevenson. Capitalized at $1 billion, it is one of the largest private equity funds dedicated exclusively to investments in the media, communications and information industries. Together with Fund III's predecessor funds, VS&A Communications Partners has invested in 31 platform companies across multiple media segments; the realized and unrealized enterprise value of these investments total approximately $6 billion.
About Verizon Information Services:
About 3i Group:
3i invests in businesses across three continents through local investment teams in Europe, Asia Pacific and the USA. To date, 3i has invested over £15 billion (including co-investment funds).
In the 12 months to 31st March 2003 an average of £3.7 million (including co-investment funds) was invested each working day. 3i’s current portfolio is valued at almost £4 billion.
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