EQT Said to Advance With IPO or Sale of Springer Science

EQT Partners AB is pressing ahead with plans to sell or hold an initial public offering for Springer Science & Business Media in a transaction that could value the German academic publisher at as much as 4 billion euros ($5.2 billion), said people familiar with the matter.

The Swedish buyout firm part-owned by the Wallenberg family plans to send documents to interested groups this month and potential buyers have received non-disclosure agreements, according to the people. EQT is weighing options for the publisher following improved full-year results, they said.

The Stockholm-based buyout firm, which bought the company jointly with the Government of Singapore Investment Corp. in 2009, is seeking offers of 3 billion euros to 4 billion euros, people familiar with the matter said in January.

The sale comes as cheap borrowing costs help fuel an 18 percent increase in private-equity transactions this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. There’s also been a pick-up in IPOs. Companies in Europe, the Middle East and Africa have raised $4 billion in IPOs this year, compared with $567 million they sold in the same period in 2012, data show.

“The IPO market is very hot now and a lot is going on,” said Alex DeGroote, a media analyst at Panmure Gordon & Co. in London. The $16 billion takeover of U.K. cable-TV provider Virgin Media Inc. by Liberty Global Inc. last month was a “trigger” for the market, which EQT is “responding to,” he said.

‘Risky Option’

An IPO is “the most risky option but the most valuable and EQT possibly pursuing an IPO is quite a statement of intent on the firmness of the market,” DeGroote said.

An official at EQT declined to comment. Springer Science spokesman Eric Merkel-Sobotta said “there are discussions taking place and there’s no time pressure.”

EQT and the Singapore government began working with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. in October to prepare a Springer IPO, which is their preferred option, people familiar with the matter said then. Earlier this year some potential buyers balked at the asking price, slowing the process, other people said.

The business, which publishes 2,000 magazines and 7,000 books every year on subjects including science and medicine, has attracted interest from companies such as media giant Bertelsmann SE. The Guetersloh, Germany-based company said yesterday that it’s no longer interested in Springer Science.

“For Bertelsmann, the area of business information is considered one of our strategic growth platforms,” Christian Steinhof, a spokesman for Bertelsmann, said in an e-mailed statement. “Therefore we’re pursuing several investment options here -- however Springer Science is not among them.”

London-based Candover Investments Plc and another private equity firm, Cinven Ltd., formed Springer in 2003 when they bought Kluwer Academic Publishers and BertelsmannSpringer.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.