Media group Ascential (ASCL) gains 3% to 390.6p as it agrees to acquire an initial 35% interest in cybersecurity provider Avast's marketing analysis unit Jumpshot for $60.8m.

The deal is unveiled alongside first half results which include plenty of moving parts, reflecting the disposals and acquisitions the company has made of late as it reshapes the business to focus more heavily on information services rather than events.

Ascential has an option to take a majority ownership position in Jumpshot no sooner than January 2021.

The deal is conditional on German antitrust approval and the entry by Ascential, Jumpshot and Avast into a shareholders' agreement, which would grant a put and call option over an additional 16% of Jumpshot's shares.

The total consideration payable by Ascential for the two tranches will not exceed £300m, Ascential says. Closing of the deal is currently expected to occur on or around 31 August 2019.

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Separately, Ascential books a 32% rise in first-half profit for the six months through June to £30.5m.

Revenue jumps 25% to £236.2m, though the company lowered its interim dividend to 1.8p, down from 1.9p, with the prior year benefiting from earnings from discontinued operations.

AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould says: ‘Acquisitions and disposals make media firm Ascential’s results a difficult read.

‘Reassuringly cash conversion is still above 100% so investors can have some confidence this is not a case of using frequent deals to disguise a poor quality business.

“The company has been through a dramatic period of transition as it pivots away from events and exhibitions towards information services.

‘Of the events it has retained, the jewel in the crown is the Cannes Lions advertising festival which regained its roar in June after the company hit the reset button. Overall the group’s numbers look fairly decent with organic growth close to double-digit levels.’


Issue Date: 22 Jul 2019