01.30.2018
By Rob Daly

Thomson Reuters, Blackstone in $17.3B Talks

Thomson Reuters officials have acknowledged that the global news and information provider is in advanced discussions with The Blackstone Group regarding the private equity firm taking a majority stake in the vendor’s financial and risk business lines.

As part of any proposed partnership, Thomson Reuters would retain a significant interest in its financial and risk units as well as full ownership of its legal, news, and tax & accounting businesses, according to a prepared statement made by Thomson Reuters.

A source familiar with the situation expected that the deal would involve Blackstone taking 55% ownership of Thomson Reuters’ largest business unit, which is worth $20 billion, reported Thomson Reuters competitor Bloomberg.

The financial and risk business, which provides market data, primary and secondary research, analysis tools, and trading platforms, generated revenue of $6.1 billion in 2016 for Thomson Reuters, much coming from recurring subscriptions.

The overall deal may be as large $17.3 billion and includes a 30-year license for Reuters news content for which Blackstone will pay $325 million annually, The Financial Times and Reuters reported respectively.

This transaction should not be considered as Thomson Reuters waving the white flag over the financial and risk business since it would retain a 45% interest in the business, Spencer Mindlin, an analyst at research firm Aite Group, told Markets Media.

Spencer Mindlin,
Aite Group

“If Thomson Reuters was spinning out the news parts of its business, I’d say the Thomson family was waving a white flag — in light of how the news industry is changing,” he said. “But in this case, the Thomson organization is holding on to a substantial piece of the business that Blackstone is buying into. F&R may not have been operating at its full potential, but it’s still a growing and profitable business.”

In the short term, Mindlin expects it to be “business as usual” for Thomson Reuters clients.

“Longer-term, I think this signals that existing clients should expect their vendor to be an even stronger provider,” he said. “This could prove to be a big win for clients as well as signal that competition in the M&A likely is heating up in this space.”

As an independent business, a spun-off financial and risk unit would be freer to bring in more diverse data sources and content that clients likely want to access via Thomson Reuters Eikon terminals.

“Thomson Reuters has been in M&A mode for some years now, but this will mark a step change,” Alex DeGroote, an analyst at London-based Cenkos Securities told Bloomberg.

A partnership with Blackstone would allow Thomson Reuters to bring in additional capital, which it might use for possible consolidation, he added.

And the industry is ripe for further consolidation due to the amount of redundant and commoditized technology currently deployed, agreed Mindlin.

“Only then can vendors with sufficient market share have the confidence to re-invest into their next-generation platforms,” he said. “Thomson Reuters likely has sufficient market share to validate Blackstone’s likely investment thesis. And given the continued and growing trend by FIs to outsource their technology, this commitment of capital means that the business is now better positioned to continue to aggregate and acquire more market share, invest in its next-generation of vendor-provided solutions for FIs, and continue to build out an ecosystem around its terminal.”

Although the discussions are ongoing, Thomson Reuters officials cautioned that the conversation might not lead to a definitive agreement and that the firm does not expect to make any further comments “until it determines that further disclosure is appropriate is required.”

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