May 24, 2021

Will Informa Buy Journal of Commerce? [Contributor]

As S&P Global and IHSMarkit continue to navigate the regulatory hurdles to their planned $44bn merger, Informa Plc is believed to have resumed negotiations to acquire (or establish a JV with) the $300m-revenue IHS Maritime & Trade portfolio including the Journal of Commerce. It is believed that earlier talks had been interrupted by the S&P merger announcement in December 2020.

The 194-year-old Journal of Commerce, which was formerly a daily newspaper, is now a twice-monthly magazine and digital service. The IHS Maritime & Trade portfolio also includes Lloyd’s Register of Shipping and the International Maritime Organisation’s ID register of ships. It would be good fit for the Lloyd’s List and Seatrade information and events of Informa Plc. The possibility of merging the Informa and IHSMarkit maritime interests may have first been discussed two years ago when the two companies, respectively, exchanged their Agribusiness and TMT groups in a no-cash deal.

With Informa under investment pressure through the pandemic crisis in exhibitions, it may be seeking to establish a maritime-trade JV with IHSMarkit on the lines of its deal last month with the privately-owned Novantas. The New York-based banking data group merged with Informa’s own FBX (Financial Benchmarking & Omnichannel Experience), giving the listed UK company a 57% stake of the combined business, with Inflexion private equity as the other investor.

For the listed company Informa, that was another creative, no-cash solution in tough times. Such an arrangement might also satisfy IHSMarkit and S&P Global: although the maritime portfolio is thought to be profitable, improvement in its relatively low growth rates might depend on major consolidation.

It is difficult not to link these moves in shipping and freight markets to FreightWaves. The fast-growing, four-year-old company this week raised $16m to fund its Carbon Intelligence platform, including from Triangle Peak Partners, Hearst Ventures, and Kayne Partners. Its still got most of the $37m it raised last summer through Kayne and is itching to do more deals.

In the first quarter of 2021, FreightWaves’ subscriptions revenue from software grew over 80%, and its media revenue more than doubled. The $20m-revenue company – now close to breakeven – might be considering an IPO in 2022 and – perhaps – a future deal with IHS-Informa? It all fits.

Reproduced with permission from Flashes & Flames, the weekly subscription newsletter for media executives and entrepreneurs.