OPINION9 May 2024

Lorna Tilbian: Wake up, London!

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Finance Opinion UK

The Impact columnist looks at examples of value creation via partial sales – Ascential, Informa, GlobalData and Marlowe – that highlight the discrepancy between the sum of the parts and the whole.


As is well documented, the London market is moribund, with valuations far below those of other international stock markets, particularly the US. The reasons behind this are numerous and diverse, ranging from Brexit and regulatory red tape on the geopolitical front to Trussonomics and lack of growth stocks on the macroeconomic side.

Whatever the true underlying cause, investors – both domestic and international – have not been buyers, and valuations have drifted to the extent that companies are having to apply ‘self-help’; in other words, doing the market’s job of price discovery for it, by spinning off subsidiaries to private equity or breaking themselves up, as in the case of Ascential, the specialist information, data and analytics company.

Ascential has sold Flywheel, its digital commerce business, to global agency group Omnicom for $900m (£741m) and WGSN, its trend-forecasting business, to private equity player Apax for £700m. The combined proceeds have realised £1.2bn net, representing 126% of Ascential’s market capitalisation before the announcement of the sales.

Together, Flywheel and ...