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Time said to move closer to sale for more than $20 a share

This image provided by Time magazine, shows the cover of the magazine’s Person of the Year edition with President-elect Donald Trump in New York. (Nadav Kander / Associated Press)
This image provided by Time magazine, shows the cover of the magazine’s Person of the Year edition with President-elect Donald Trump in New York. (Nadav Kander / Associated Press)
By Alex Sherman Bloomberg

Time Inc. is moving closer to a sale that could value the magazine publisher at more than $20 a share, according to people familiar with the process.

A sale of the entire company is now more likely than not, and may be reached as soon as the end of next week, the people said, though discussions could drag into early April. Meredith Corp. and a group including Pamplona Capital Management and Jahm Najafi are still in the running to buy the entire business, alongside at least two other suitors including one publicly listed company, the people said.

A bid at more than $20 a share would value Time at about $2 billion. Time shares are up more than 40 percent since Nov. 25, the last day of trading before it was reported that an investor group led by Edgar Bronfman Jr. had made an offer. The company currently has a market valuation of about $1.9 billion.

Meredith, which publishes titles such as Family Fun and MidWest Living, is seen as the most likely winner as it has the most obvious synergies with Time, the people said. There are doubts, however, that a final deal with the Des Moines, Iowa-based group will be reached after it failed to agree on a previous transaction with Time in 2013, the people said. Time Warner Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bewkes decided to separate Time from the parent company instead of combining it with Meredith.

No deal with any party has been finalized and talks may still fall apart, the people said. If that happens, Time is likely to push ahead with a plan to sell individual magazine titles and invest more in digital instead, they said. It would also consider taking a private investment.

Bronfman’s investor group, backed by Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries and Ynon Kreiz, left the bidding process because it was unwilling to bid more than $18 a share, at the low end of the indicative range of $18 to $20 a share that it suggested in a letter last year, the people said.

Representatives for the Bronfman group, Meredith, Pamplona and Time declined to comment.

Any company buying Time would be taking over a publisher in turmoil that’s struggling to adapt to a digital world. Sometimes-activist investor Jana Partners acquired a stake in the once-vaunted publisher last year, prompting a management shakeup and a restructuring of the business.

Time has spent nearly a year expanding its online businesses, including streaming video, to persuade advertisers to pour money in its magazines instead of upstart digital outlets. Most critically, the company has reorganized how it sells advertising, creating more custom content for sponsors and making it easier for marketers to buy ads across its magazine portfolio.

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