Yellow Pages owner on the brink

imagesThe owner of Yellow Pages, the one-time darling of the business data industry, is set to hand control of the company to its creditors in a deal which will leave its shareholders empy-handed.
Hibu, formerly known as Yell, rebranded in May last year, when chief executive Mike Pocock admitted the new name was “just a word”. At the time he said: “It doesn’t mean a lot by itself, but if you turn the clock back, neither did Apple and Google or Yahoo.
The former FTSE 100 giant has been crippled by interest payments on a £2.3bn debt, amassed in the last decade when it embarked on overseas acquisitions spree.
Famous for its strapline, “Let your fingers do the walking”, it has seen profits eaten away by online competition from the likes of Google and its market value slump from more than £5bn to less than £7m as of last week.
The management team had tried to turn the firm around by repositioning it as a local search engine and marketplace, linking shoppers with the businesses nearest to them. They are attempting to develop new digital products as revenues from the Yellow Pages phone book and other print products decline.
The rescue deal is expected to more than halve its debt, reducing it to less than £1bn, with the creditors, including Ares, Soros Fund Management and Deutsche Bank, taking control.
Hibu’s investors – whose shares are now worth just 0.28p each – would be wiped out under the deal as the company would exit the stock market.
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