eFinancial on brink of £80m sale

INVESTMENT banking news and recruitment specialists eFinancial Group, owned by the Perthshire-based publisher Angus MacDonald, is in negotiations to sell the website's publishing arm, Financial News, The Scotsman has learned.

The news follows reports that the company is on the verge of selling its job site arm, eFinancialCareers, to the US recruitment business Dice for an estimated 50 million.

Negotiations for the sale of Financial News have gone into exclusivity with an unnamed US publisher, for a sum believed to be about 30m, bringing the combined price for both arms of the business to about 80m.

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The news comes as eFinancial Group announced profits of 1.8m for the six months to June, on sales of 11.6m, a 60 per cent increase in turnover on the same period last year. Profits of about 4m are anticipated for the whole of 2006, on revenue topping 25m.

The unsolicited approach for the group's newspaper and news website is expected to reach a conclusion "a few months" after the sale of the careers site.

The combined sale will bring the biggest windfall to date for MacDonald, who left Martin Currie to set up Edinburgh Financial Publishing in 1990 - later selling the company for 7.25m - and who in 2002 made an unsuccessful bid to buy the defunct Scottish financial newspaper Business AM from the Bonnier Group.

Dice, backed by private equity firms Quadrangle Capital Partners and General Atlantic Partners, made its unsolicited bid for eFinancial Careers in March.

Financial News, which MacDonald acquired in 1996, generates 75 per cent of its income from web sales. In an interview with The Scotsman last November, MacDonald said the publication was designed to exploit the weakness of the coverage of wholesale financial markets.