Experian Headed for Spinoff

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Credit bureau and database marketing company Experian will become independent of parent company GUS PLC in six to 12 months, London-based GUS said yesterday.


The separation also will establish the company's Argos Retail Group as a standalone entity.


A spokeswoman for Experian's U.S. headquarters in Costa Mesa, CA, said securities laws precluded the company from commenting, and GUS officials in London could not be reached for comment yesterday. Experian's UK headquarters are in Nottingham.


Under the proposal, which is subject to shareholder approval, Experian and ARG would become independently listed on the London Stock Exchange.


"The separation of ARG and Experian is the final step in focusing GUS on fewer activities, a strategy that has delivered substantial value for shareholders," GUS chairman Victor Blank said in a statement. "Both ARG and Experian are now well positioned in their chosen markets, and both have proven management teams and clear strategies for growth."


Merrill Lynch said Experian could be worth $13.12 billion after the split, according to media reports.


GUS said Experian would retain its management including group CEO John Peace, who would become chairman. The CEO would be Don Robert, and the finance director would be Paul Brooks. Peace joined GUS in 1970 and was on board during its 1996 acquisition of Experian for $1.71 billion as well as the 1998 acquisitions of U.S. service bureaus Direct Tech and Metromail, which were integrated into Experian Marketing Services.


Experian's most recent acquisition was customer management consultancy ClarityBlue Inc. for $150 million. In the previous year and a half, it bought the CheetahMail e-mail deployment service, Simmons Market Research Bureau, Predictive Analytics, Vente and Harvest Solutions, a Web analytics solution now called SiteClarity.


The move to spin off the companies was alluded to in December when GUS sold its stake in luxury retailer Burberry, when GUS said it was considering breaking up. In February, the UK media speculated that U.S. private investment firms Hellman & Friedman and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts might offer to buy Experian.


At that time, Experian spokesman Donald Girard told DM News, "The only thing that Experian is saying is what our GUS chairman has been saying for the last year or more, and that is that they're doing an analysis of their various businesses and at some point they'll make an announcement as to what they plan to do with Experian."


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