Reed Business titles back on the block

Following a disappointing first half and an enterprise-wide portfolio review, Reed Elsevier is putting portions of its Reed Business Information (RBI) unit back on the block. This time around, the company’s US titles only are up for sale, barring a handful that will become part of RBI Global.

Variety, which has a weekly circulation of 34,000, Reed Construction Data, RSMeans, MarketCast, LA411 and BuyerZone will all be retained.

In all, nearly 50 titles are up for sale, including Broadcasting and Cable (22,198 circulation), Design News (170,103 circulation), Graphic Arts Monthly (70,100 circulation) and Publishers Weekly (20,319 circulation), along with their related international editions and online products.

“This has been a difficult decision to reach as there are many strong brands here, with very experienced and professional teams running them, but we have concluded that they are less well suited to RBI’s strategy going forward,” RBI Global CEO, Keith Jones, said in a statement. “We have had to contend with a far harsher advertising environment than any of us have experienced before and, in such a climate, we have to focus not just on innovation and efficiency, but also on ensuring that our portfolio is well-matched with our long-term ambitions.”

When RBI was first put up for sale last year, the move was explained as part of Reed Elsevier’s new focus on its risk management and online workflow divisions.

The company, which reported a 48% drop in profit for the first half of 2009, put RBI on the block in February of 2008, but abandoned its plans in December with the hope that market conditions would later improve, allowing for a more lucrative sales contract. However, steady declines in the print market, especially in advertising, pushed RBI revenue down 17% — and operating profit down 43% — for the first half of this year. Advertising revenue for the unit dropped 30%. RBI reported that subscription and online revenues remained “robust.”

Effective July 30, RBI-US CEO Tad Smith has resigned, leaving John Poulin, EVP and CFO of RBI-US serving as acting CEO of the company.

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