Axel Springer Said to Work With Banks on Digital Unit IPO

Apr 15, 2014 4:24 am ET

(Updates with stock trading in fourth paragraph.)

April 15 (Bloomberg) -- Axel Springer SE, Europe’s biggest newspaper publisher, is working with JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc. on an initial public offering of its digital- classifieds business, people familiar with the matter said.

Axel Springer Digital Classifieds, partly owned by private- equity firm General Atlantic LLC, could be valued at about 3 billion euros ($4.1 billion) in a share sale that could take place as early as the second half, two of the people said, asking not to be named as the details aren’t public yet.

Online retailers including AO World Plc and Just Eat Plc in the U.K. have listed on the stock market this year to take advantage of renewed investor interest as Europe’s economy strengthens. Axel Springer’s digital media channels contribute nearly 50 percent of its revenue, more than any other business.

Axel Springer rose as much as 2.8 percent and traded 1.4 percent higher at 44.90 euros as of 10:20 a.m. in Frankfurt.

Representatives for Axel Springer, General Atlantic, Citigroup and JPMorgan declined to comment.

General Atlantic, a U.S. private-equity investor with about $18 billion in capital under management, bought a 30 percent stake for 237 million euros in the joint venture with Axel Springer in 2012. The buyout firm has an option to exit the digital classifieds business via an IPO in 2015. They could sell shares on the market earlier if both parties agree, one of the people said.

The digital operations include StepStone, an online jobs classifieds business, Immonet in Germany and SeLoger in France, which are both property websites.

--With assistance from Cornelius Rahn in Berlin.