HK Mag publisher seeking investors

Asia City Media Group,with annual income of US$10m, is in talks for a possible sale of itself to an advertising firm or private equity fund

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 September, 2012, 3:46am

Asia City Media Group (ACMG), which publishes popular free weekly lifestyle magazines, including HK Magazine, across the region, is seeking new investors for a major equity infusion or even a takeover.

People in the financial industry said the privately held company had been in talks for a few months with advertising firms and private equity funds for its potential sale.

No agreement has been reached yet, said the people, who declined to be identified as the negotiations remain private.

ACMG, formerly known as Asia City Publishing Group, was founded by three media professionals - Stephen Freeman, Greg Duncan and Gretchen Worth - in Hong Kong in the late 1980s.

Its first magazine about Hong Kong, essentially a guide for tourists, was published in 1991. It was revamped and renamed HK Magazine in 1992, when it was published monthly. In 1995, the magazine went weekly.

"From a deal perspective, this is a rare opportunity for a fund to acquire a brand that is already well known in the local market," said one of the people, noting that HK Magazine's readers are mostly young people who like to travel and spend money on cosmetics or electronic gadgets.

"You can consider it as a media-sector deal, but it's also about the big potential to reach the young consumers in those major Asian cities."

A private equity veteran who reviewed the potential deal said the two main challenges for new investors aiming to take over the business of ACMG were the size of the market and the increasing cost of keeping its local magazines in five Asian cities - Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai and Singapore - in print.

"The market for ACMG's business is not big enough; for example, in Hong Kong, I think the advertising business is already very crowded," he said. Limited access to the vast mainland market also made the deal look less attractive, he said.

Total income from ACMG's business has remained stable at about US$10 million annually, the people said.

The firm was not available for comment.

The news about the possible sale of ACMG was first reported in specialised industry magazines last week.

The media business in the West has been in bad shape for the past few years - with big names like The New York Times struggling to survive financially.

In Asia, and in China in particular, the situation is less dire, though some private equity investors are worried the economic slowdown on the mainland could hurt consumers' spending and hence advertising revenue for many media companies.