On 30.01.2018, Blackstone announced to buy a majority stake in the data business of Thomson Reuters, the world’s second largest financial information provider. It’s the private equity group’s biggest purchase since the financial crisis, pitting the firepower and network of Stephen Schwarzman, who oversees $387bn in Blackstone funds, against fellow billionaire and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who dominates Wall Street’s financial information industry.

 

When Blackstone announced to buy a majority stake in Thomson Reuters’ data unit, there was a lot of excitement among investors, pushing Thomson Reuters’s share price to new highs at announcement date. The $17.3bn transaction is Blackstone’s largest deal by enterprise value since the firm’s $26bn buyout of Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc, in 2007. Under the terms of the deal, Blackstone will acquire a 55% majority stake in Thomson Reuters’ financial and risk division, which will then be carved out into a new company, with Thomson Reuters owning the remainder. CPPIB(1) and GIC(2), will co-invest alongside Blackstone. According to the Financial Times, the deal will not include Thomson Reuters’ newsgathering operation or its businesses serving the legal, tax and accounting communities.

 

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The deal volume of $17bn consists of a $3bn equity investment from the Blackstone-led group and $14bn in debt and preferred equity. Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase will provide debt financing for the deal, most likely including leveraged loans and high-yield bonds. Canson Capital Partners, Bank of America, Citigroup and JPMorgan were financial advisers to the Blackstone-led consortium, whereas Guggenheim Securities, TD Securities and Centerview Partners advised the sell-side.

The deal will make the Blackstone-led entity the major competitor of the financial information industries’ global market leader, Bloomberg. Blackstone sees attractive growth in the Thomson Reuters unit’s data feed, its foreign exchange and treasury trading platforms, as well as its risk and compliance business, according to industry experts. In addition, the division would also be able to improve operations more quickly than a private company, highly critical in a turn-around.

The market for financial data and information is only weakly fragmented with Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters accounting for c. 56% of total revenues in 2016. In 2017, global spending on information/analysis increased by 3.6% to $28.5bn, for the largest YoY growth since 2011. When looking at the historic development of the market, Thomson Reuters has been the leading player ahead of Bloomberg until 2011 with regards to market share. Since then, Bloomberg has largely evolved as the dominant player in the financial information market and successfully defended its strong position. However, with increasing competition from new players such as Goldman Sachs-backed company Symphony, the market could undertake a major re-organization and threaten Bloomberg’s dominant position, which offers significant growth opportunities for the new company.

The market reacted with a 9.5% increase in Thomson Reuters’ stock price, immediately after the acquisition plans were published, whereas the share price of Blackstone fell by 2% due to increased uncertainty among investors. A carve-out by a private equity firm could lead to a turnaround that Thomson would have struggled to achieve on its own ague analysts in favor of the deal. However, there are also concerns with regard to the feasibility of the turnaround. According to Bloomberg, there is a plateau problem regarding the earnings of the unit. To achieve private equity-style returns, Blackstone will need to boost the unit’s average earnings, which are flat around $1.6bn since 2012, a task that has proved difficult for Thomson Reuters in the past. Finally, the question remains whether a deal of this size is an outlier, or the start of a new wave of megadeals in the private equity industry to deploy record sums of dry powder. “There is undoubtedly a lot of dry powder in the market at the moment,” said Andrew Adams, chief executive officer at Quayle Munro, a U.K.-based M&A advisory firm.

 

Thomson Reuters Corporation is a Canadian media and information firm with revenues of c. $11bn in 2016. As of 2018, they employ around 45,000 people across the four divisions, financial & risk, Reuters news, legal and tax & accounting. In 2018, the financial & risk division accounted for over half of the company’s revenue.

The Blackstone Group L.P. is an American multinational private equity, alternative asset management and financial services firm based in New York City. As the largest alternative investment firm in the world. Blackstone specializes in private equity, credit and hedge fund investment strategies. As of December 31, 2017, Blackstone had $434bn in assets under management.

 

Sources:

For Illustration 1: Thompson Reuters Revenue by Segment. Retrieved from: The Wallstreet Journal (2018): https://www.wsj.com/articles/thomson-reuters-chairman-criticized-its-17-billion-deal-with-blackstone-1518692400

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