Hibu heralds a looming deal with lenders

City A.M. Reporter
YELLOW Pages publisher Hibu, which is grappling with a heavy debt load, said yesterday it expects to reach a deal with its lenders on restructuring its debt “in the near future”.

Hibu said in October that it would suspend debt repayments and that it planned to present a restructuring proposal to lenders by January to clean up its balance sheet by the first half of 2013.

Hibu’s net debt fell £83m to just over £2bn in the quarter to the end of December. It built up the debt pile in a series of acquisitions including a €3.3bn (£2.83bn) deal to buy a Spanish directories business in 2006.

Like other directories publishers, Hibu has been struggling to cope with a slide in its print businesses as more people turn to the internet for local listings.

The company said revenue fell 14 per cent to £314m in the quarter ended 31 December. Revenue at its print and other directory businesses fell 22 per cent.

Hibu lost a fifth of its Yellow Pages advertisers to 189,000, with each spending £933, or 5.3 per cent less.

However, revenue at its digital services business rose 31 per cent to £45m and customer numbers rose 10 per cent to 391,000.

Digital revenue now makes up 36 per cent of overall revenue, up from 30 per cent last year.

“Our new strategic products are progressing well from development to market readiness,” said chief executive Mike Pocock.

“Community magazines are being sold into more than 600 markets and generating orders of more than half a million pounds a week.”