Future confirms 97 million bid for Highbury

(The publishing company, not the football stadium.) Major deal would make Future into the third-largest consumer publisher in the UK.

Magazine publishing giant Future has confirmed that it is to acquire rival publisher Highbury House, in a deal worth around £97 million which will give the company almost total dominance of the UK videogames magazine market.

The deal, which values each share at 10p, has the support of Highbury's board, but still requires approval from the company's shareholders - a process which may take several months to complete.

At that per-share price, Future's valuation of Highbury is £31.6 million, but Highbury also has a debt of £64.9 million which Future would have to take on - bringing the total value of the proposed deal to £96.5 million.

The effect of the deal with most relevance to the games industry is that it will seal Future's dominance of print games media in the UK.

Highbury House is the parent company of Paragon, Future's largest remaining rival in the UK videogames magazine industry, and publisher of titles including Play, XBM, P2, gamesTM and Cube.

The only other major publisher with any active interest in the market is Emap, which publishes Nintendo Official Magazine; in the past two years, Future has also acquired the videogames portfolios of Dennis (PC Zone, ComputerAndVideoGames) and Computec Media (Xbox World, PSW).

Looking beyond the videogames market, Highbury publishes a total of 68 consumer magazines in the UK, and six in the USA, with small operations in South Africa and Australia.

"The deal would take us to third-largest consumer publisher in the UK, and second-largest special-interest publisher in the UK," Future CEO Greg Ingham informed staff at the publishing house in a memo this morning.

"Highbury's magazines fall into two broad camps," he continued, "those in familiar territories (such as cars, games, computing, bikes, film, technology) and those in areas new for us (such as homes, men's lifestyle, puzzles, gardening, models and some contract titles). So we see it as an attractive blend of strengthening several of our core areas whilst moving into new areas - which has been our strategy for many years."

"Assuming we gain approval, this will be extremely good news for Future - it'll be a great step forward," Ingham concluded.

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