Spotlight – Future’s big issues

Next week will be crunch time for Ian Linkins, group finance director of the Future Network, the magazine publisher that counts titles such as Total Film and the Official PlayStation Magazine in its stable.

The group is to float on the stock market next week and aims to raise £165m. It will be valued between £525m and £600m and will issue 38 million new shares.

Most of the board will hold shares in the listed company so Linkins has a personal as well as professional interest in ensuring the float is a success.

Future Network – formerly known as Future Publishing – publishes 71 consumer and computer titles. It recorded operating profits last year of £15.59m, up from £10.5m in the previous year. Last year, the Pearson Media Group, which owns the Financial Times, sold Future Publishing for £142m to management and venture capitalists Apax Partners.

But the flotation comes at a turbulent time in the magazine industry. Earlier this month Reed Elsevier, the holding company for Anglo-Dutch publisher Reed, issued its third profit warning in six months, blaming competition from internet information providers and the economic downturn.

So there is plenty to mull over for Linkins, who spent 17 years at Reed International in finance and operational roles before joining Future Publishing in 1991 as finance director.

For a private company without any reporting requirements there will be much that is new to grapple with, from corporate governance issues like board director’s remuneration to the proposed Turnbull reforms on internal audit controls.

Linkins will also have to cope with stringent stock-market reporting requirements incorporated in the combined code. Nevertheless, Future Network will be a relatively small market option, joining stocks currently scorned by institutional investors for whom big is always best and being dwarfed by multinational publishing companies such as Reed and VNU Business Publications, the publisher of Accountancy Age.

One Big Five flotation expert said: ‘Nobody likes smaller quoted companies at the moment and institutional investors are moving up-market.’

It will be up to Linkins to buck that trend.

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