Report: PE firms bid for Singaporean publishing business

3i and CVC Capital are reportedly in the running to acquire the printing and publishing business of the F&N Group, which is looking to sell the unit for at least $400m.

3i and CVC Capital are bidding for the publishing business of Singapore-listed Fraser and Neave (F&N), a business group with interests in food and beverages, real estate, and printing and publishing, according to Reuters.

F&N’s publishing unit is likely to sell for a price upwards of $400 million (€273 million), unnamed sources told the newswire. The first round of the auction is likely to be held this month and may also attract strategic buyers.

The group’s publishing unit engages in printing, publishing, distribution and retailing. It owns and operates the Times Bookstores chain which has outlets in Singapore, Malaysia and Macau. 

In June, F&N called for a strategic review of its printing and publishing business and hired Morgan Stanley to provide advice on various “strategic options” for the unit.

The printing and publishing business reported revenues of S$256 million ($180 million; €123 million) in the first half of the financial year that ends in September, according to the report. It currently contributes about 10 percent of the group’s revenues.

The property arm of the group develops residential property and owns seven shopping malls in Singapore. It also provides hospitality management services in cities in Europe, Middle East and Asia.

The company’s food and beverage unit produces soft drinks, dairy products and beer. Asia Pacific Breweries, one of the company’s joint venture subsidiaries, has a portfolio of 40 beer brands, including the flagship brand Tiger Beer. 

This is the second time in recent months that private equity firms have shown interest in bookstore chains in the region. In June this year, A&R Whitcoulls, a book retailer and portfolio company of Australia-focused private equity firm Pacific Equity Partners, agreed to buy 30 Borders bookstores in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore in a transaction valued at up to A$110 million ($94 million; €64 million).

A spokeswoman for 3i declined to comment.