Transport Airlines

Airline data firm OAG sold again, this time for peanuts, as digital natives rise

@rafat

Feb 10, 2013 11:51 am

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How the mighty have fallen, in their slow and failed attempts at moving beyond legacy and commodity information.

— Rafat Ali

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OAG, one of the oldest and most storied airline industry databases, is about to change hands again. UBM, the London-based B2B media company that owns it as part of its UBM Aviation unit, has signed a binding deal to tell OAG and most of its other data units — health, paper, technology, trade and transport — to private equity firm Electra Partners LLP for 160 million pounds ($252 million), including a vendor loan of 40 million pounds.

This is much lower than the 200 million pounds that analysts had hoped for, in this division sale. Revenues for the sold unit fell 5.6 percent last year to 179.3 million pounds and their adjusted operating profit dropped 1.1 percent to 27.4 million pounds, UBM said. Most of these data businesses started as print directories decades and flight to digital and digital-native more efficient competitors have hurt these businesses, including OAG.

And for OAG — formerly Official Airline Guides — it is a big comedown. The flight schedule and route information directory and data firm, whose history goes back to 1853 as a rail information company, was bought in 1962 by Dun & Bradstreet which then sold it in 1989 for $750 million to Propwix, controlled by later-disgraced financier Robert Maxwell, who then offloaded it to Reed Elsevier in 1993 for $417 million, which then sold it off to, yes, Electra Partners, in 2001 for much less. UBM bought it in Dec 2006 for a ridiculously low price of $2.6 million and likely the price now is even lower.

So this is EP’s second time owing OAG, remains to be seen what it does with in in face of competition from much bigger players now like Innovata and other industry digital upstarts like FlightViews, FlightStats and others.

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