Guardian sells Trader Media stake

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The publisher of the Guardian and Observer newspapers has agreed to sell its remaining 50.1% stake in the owner of car classifieds brand Auto Trader in a deal reportedly worth over £600 million.

Guardian Media Group (GMG) is offloading the holding to private equity firm Apax Partners, which bought 49.9% of Trader Media Group for nearly £700 million in 2007.

Financial details were not disclosed, but it is thought Apax is paying between £600 million and £700 million for the stake, giving the business an enterprise value of around £1.8 billion including debt.

It will provide a financial boost for GMG and its loss-making flagship title, with the cash set to be reinvested in its core newspaper business.

Andrew Miller, chief executive of GMG, said: "This proposed transaction makes strategic sense as we focus GMG's activities on award-winning digital and print journalism.

"On completion, the sale-proceeds will strengthen our balance sheet and position us for further investment and growth in our core business."

Neil Berkett, chair of the GMG board, added the deal will make GMG a "very well-capitalised media organisation with the financial flexibility to navigate the rapidly-changing media environment".

The move follows a series of sales by GMG in recent years, such as its regional newspaper arm -
including the Manchester Evening News - and Smooth Radio business Global Radio.

Guardian Media Group took full ownership of Trader Media Group in 2003.
Trader axed print editions of its brands last year, printing its final edition of the Auto Trader magazine in June.

Auto Trader now has more than 11.5 million monthly unique users and around 360,000 new and used vehicles advertised on the site.

Trader Media employs nearly 1,400 staff across offices in Wimbledon, Reading and Newton-le-Willows in Merseyside.

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