Another US acquisition for Future gives it extra clout in business-to-business media sector

August 2, 2019

Bath media group Future has crossed the Atlantic again for its latest multi-million pound deal as it continues to build its presence in the US market.

The group, whose UK titles include TechRadar, PC Gamer and Guitar World, has bought Washington DC-headquartered digital media publisher SmartBrief for an initial sum of $45m (£37.2m). 

SmartBrief produces targeted business news and information, combining technology and editorial expertise to deliver relevant industry news curated from more than 1,500 sources.

It operates in partnership with trade associations, professional societies, non-profits and corporations across a range of sectors including business, education, finance, health care, marketing & advertising, retail and food & travel.

In the 12 months to March 31, SmartBrief had earnings of $5m on unaudited revenues of $35.1m, predominantly derived from display advertising in its email newsletters and industry briefs.

Future CEO Zillah Byng-Thorne said the acquisition would “substantially boost” Future’s presence and market position in the B2B sector and enhance its proprietary technology capabilities.

The move follows Future’s £100m takeover last September of the business-to-consumer arm of leading US publisher Purch, which added popular US tech and science platforms such as Tom’s Guide, Tom’s Hardware, and Live Science to Future’s burgeoning portfolio. 

In March it snapped up global digital publisher MoNa Mobile Nations for $55m in cash and $5m paid for by issuing new shares. MoNa’s key brands, including Android Central, iMore, Windows Central and Thrifter, combine content, community and commerce to deliver what Future described at the time of the takeover as “shopping enablement solutions”.

As a result, Future’s US operations in the US brought in more revenue than those in the UK, in the six months to March 31. 

Future CEO Zillah Byng-Thorne said the SmartBrief acquisition would “substantially boost” Future’s presence and market position in the B2B sector and enhance its proprietary technology capabilities.  

It will increase the scale and product capabilities of its B2B division and improves B2B market share, more than tripling its subscriber database, Future said.

Also it wold give Future access to new vertical markets and provides access to CRM (customer relationship management) email marketing as potential new audience drivers for B2C along with the opportunity to utilise the CRM solution for Future’s existing B2B and B2C customers

Ms Byng-Thorne added: “We look forward to sharing best practice and leveraging SmartBrief's proprietary technology capabilities across Future’s B2B and B2C operations.”

The majority of SmartBrief's share capital is owned by three founders, one of whom is still active in the business as CEO and who is expected to remain with SmartBrief post close.

The $45m figure includes a cash consideration of $32.2m funded from Future’s existing debt facilities, with a further $12.8m from issuing just over 1m new shares.

The agreement also includes a deferred consideration based on certain financial targets achieved over the year ending July 31, 2020, which is subject to a cap of $20m.


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