Events group UBM (UBM) confirms market speculation its is in talks to acquire US peer Advanstar. The market appears to like the news, marking the shares up 2.2% to 614.5p.

This would represent the first big strategic move by chief executive officer Tim Cobbold – formerly of banknote printer De La Rue (DLAR) – since he took up the reins in May. A mooted price tag of around $900 million would also make it the firm's largest transaction since its $920 million capture of CMP Media in 1999.

Advanstar, owned by hedge fund Anchorage Capital and private equity houses Ares Management Veronis Suhler Stevenson, has 54 tradeshows and 100 conferences in the US and UK, with its main industry segments being fashion, health and motorsports. It also operates 30 publications and 200 websites. There are suggestions UBM might divest its PR Newswire division – which distributes announcements for companies online – to fund the deal.

UBM - Comparison Line Chart (Rebased to first)

Notably Cobbold's predecessor David Levin was known for favouring smaller deals. In 2005 at the start of his tenure he said: 'All our efforts are on bolt-on acquisitions - the pricing's much better, it's much more in our favour and the ability to digest them and create value out of them is much greater.'

Like many companies with overseas earnings UBM has been a victim of currency headwinds in 2014 and the shares have fallen 6.5% year-to-date. The FX issue obscured the company's progress in the first half of the year. Interims (1 Aug) revealed revenues down 7.9% to £361 million but were up 0.3% on a constant currency basis.

Issue Date: 18 Sep 2014