London, Winter Storms And Valuable Data

I spent the past week in London. While it was colder than normal, I missed the February blizzard that blanketed the northeast U.S. on Wednesday. Over the past several years, Mary Claire and I have managed to be in New York City for each of the major February snowstorms. This time she got to enjoy the winter wonderland without me. It was hard to gauge on this trip if the Labour Party was bouncing back in time for the spring election or if the Tories had peaked too early, and no one I spoke with seemed ready to make a prediction.

Speaking of predictions, The Field General lost to the clever Sean Payton and the Drew Brees lead Saints. Congratulations to all those long-suffering Saints’ fans and the city of New Orleans. I trust that Peyton Manning and the Colts will get at least one more shot at another Super Bowl before Manning ends his stellar career.

While in London my meals were distinctively French. We had lunch with Dominic Hobson and the management team of Global Custodian at L’Orangeron St. James’s Street. This classic restaurant never disappoints. One evening we had dinner with John Lee and his senior team from The Trade at The Bleeding Heart Restaurant in Bleeding Heart Square, just off Hatton Garden. The ambience, service and cuisine were, as always, superb. Both groups continue to build upon the strong momentum they established in the fourth quarter. Finally, I got to try a new restaurant, for me, The Orrery Restaurant on MaryleBone High Street. Orrery is located with Conran’s and is a superb restaurant, again French, with enough room between tables for one to truly enjoy a special meal with colleagues or friends.

On the M&A front in London, the announcement by Pearson (PSON/PSO ADR) in January that they were exploring options for their majority-controlled public company Interactive Data Corporation (IDC) brought out a long list of potential bidders. IDC is a global provider of financial market data & analytics for financial institutions and traders and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The company was formed in 2000 when Pearson merged FT Interactive Data Corporation with Data Broadcasting Corporation and gained the majority position. It is clear that with the amount of interest this auction has attracted, with bids due shortly, the winner will need to pay at least $3B for this trophy. The list of suitors according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ, 2/3/10) and the Financial Times (FT, 2/10/10) includes many of the major private equity funds: Apax, Apollo, Bain, Blackstone, Carlyle, Hellman Friedman, KKR, Permira, and Providence. McGraw-Hill and Thomson-Reuters were listed as the two interested strategic acquirers. The FT also reported that Bloomberg, which recently purchased Business Week but does not have a history of large acquisitions, was not intending to bid.

Within the past two weeks it was also announced that the Financial Times had purchased Medley Global Advisors as FT continues to look for subscription-based data products to lessen their dependency on advertising. This relatively small acquisition is along the lines of Money-Media, another subscription-based business FT purchased two years ago.

It is clear that as global financial markets continue to recover the companies that have both the financial data and analytical tools that provide transparency will see significant EBITDA multiples offered when they come to market in an auction environment.

We will be announcing, shortly, the appointment of a managing director for Strategic Insight, who as part of the Global SI team will manage our expansion in the UK and the rest of Europe from our new London office.