YPG Buys Canpages, Consolidates .Ca YP Biz

Not that it wasn’t already dominant, but Canada’s Yellow Pages Group (YPG) has bought its most successful/threatening remaining directory publishing rival, Canpages, in a $225 million transaction that includes US assets.

According to the press release out this morning:

Yellow Media Inc. (“YPG”) announced today that it has reached a definitive agreement to acquire Canadian Phone Directories Holdings Inc. (“Canpages”) from an investor group led by private equity firm HM Capital Partners for a purchase price consideration of approximately $225M. Canpages is a local search and directories publisher in Canada . . .

Headquartered in Vancouver, Canpages publishes 84 directories for a total circulation of approximately 8 million copies. The company’s website, Canpages.ca, attracts more than 3.5 million unique visitors each month. Canpages generates annualized revenues of $110M with an online contribution of approximately 23%. The Company employs about 700 people in Canada of which more than 450 are sales consultants . . .

In addition to the Canpages acquisition, YPG announced the contribution of its U.S. directory operations, YPG Directories, LLC, publisher of Your Community Phone Book (“YCB”), to Ziplocal, LP. YCB is the publisher of independent directories in selected Mid-Atlantic and Southeast American markets and was acquired from Volt Information Sciences, Inc. in September 2008. Ziplocal is a leader in providing an innovative source of information for the businesses and communities it serves. The company operates ziplocal.com, and once the two entities merge, Ziplocal will reach over 300 markets across the United States.

There are essentially two transactions: the acquisition of Canpages and the transfer of YPG US operations to Ziplocal, an online local search provider that had previously been acquired by Canpages. Previously Canpages announced a partnership with Utah-based Phone
 Directories
 Company (PDC). The latter was contributing its US online operations to Ziplocal. I would imagine that will still be in place, but may set the stage for another YPG acquisition.

One person described this transaction to me in email in this way: “This would be the equivalent of pulling AT&T, SuperMedia and DexOne together” in the US.

As the quote implies, YPG will be the dominant local media company in Canada. It will compete against a few smaller players in the directory industry and independent channels such as ReachLocal for local advertisers. There are also some newspaper publishers that may decide to make a bigger push into “local search.”

On the consumer side, it will compete with Yelp, Citysearch, Google and some newspaper owned city sites like Torstar’s Toronto.com. Foursquare is also in Canada and has a deal with daily newspaper Metro.

YPG is the supplier of local data to Google Maps in Canada.

The US local market is much more competitive than in Canada and Ziplocal is a minor player. But he US represents a growth opportunity for YPG.

This is just the latest in a series of transactions for YPG, which include the acquisition of sites like Restaurantica and several shopping-related destinations such as RedFlagDeals. The company now has a broad portfolio of local digital assets beyond its flagship yellow pages directory site.

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18 Responses to “YPG Buys Canpages, Consolidates .Ca YP Biz”

  1. troy Says:

    “This would be the equivalent of pulling AT&T, SuperMedia and DexOne together” in the US. I would not put it this way because YPG “owns” around 90% of the market in Canada while in the US, no one big player dominates. The acquistion of Canpage basically stamps out the last real competition for YPG in Canada. Surprise the government will let them buy Canpages.

  2. Gary Campbell Says:

    Congratulations to the Canpages team a very successful conclusion to a lot of hard work and dedication.

  3. JimW Says:

    Funny you would think this would make Ypg dominant again.
    They are already a minor player online and are competing against way bigger players (Google for sure, But Microsoft and Yahoo as well).
    With or without Canpages, they are a smaller player now and have to catch up with their competition.
    Thinking that are buying their “last competition” is really funny.
    People should go online and check out how that world has changed in the last 3-4 years… :-)

  4. Greg Sterling Says:

    Jim:

    Clearly they are facing intense competition from search online and their volumes are less than search. In terms of sales channel competition in the local market however they are dominant.

  5. JimW Says:

    Valid point on the local sales channel.
    Still most people now buy Google adwords direct or through resellers like ReachLocal.com (which is coming big time to Canada).
    I’d be very surprised if a local sales force ends up being a major factor of success in this field.
    No doubt it will be a strong lever, but not the only one I would think.

  6. troy Says:

    Jim, I’m sure that is the exact argument they are presenting to the Canadian government to approve this deal. I don’t know how you define dominant but over $1.6B in revenue is pretty dominant in my book.

  7. JimW Says:

    Thanks Troy. But of course I’m not trying to argue in front of the government.
    I genuinely believe that the good old yellow pages world has changed dramatically from just a couple years ago. And while $1+b is big, I am not sure it is dominant.
    YPG is going to have quite a lot of work to transfer all these dollars from print to online and this billion+ in revenue seems to me like a huge potential liability as much as an asset.
    Interesting article here:

    http://searchengineland.com/is-yellow-pages-becoming-an-obsolete-concept-38752

  8. troy Says:

    Jim, the fact that Print yellowpages is declining is a fact and very much old news. The debate has been at what rate and would it stablized. The naysayers are predicting dramatic declines like 50% every year to zero while reality has shown a much slower decline and even signs of stablization. The Print yellowpages unlike film camera is not dead because the “substitution” products are not so perfect that it makes Print instantly obsolete. In fact, I would argue online is currently an alternative but not a substitution (maybe 5 years from now or later). As for $1.6B. How many online companies you know of generate that much revenue in Canada? The fact is YPG nor any other Print based yellowpages companies would not be able to transfer dollar for dollar from Print to online hence they all are trying slow down the transition as much as possible. However, they all have a plan B but they will execute plan B at the appropriate time since there is still print money left on the table. Why would anybody walk away from that.

  9. Simon Baptist Says:

    @troy @JimW

    For what it’s worth:

    09 Revenue

    Total $1,650 M
    Online $ 304 M (18.45%)

    Don’t have EBIDTA margins from online.

  10. citybunch Says:

    Good work canpages. congrats keep going..

  11. jvrudnick Says:

    Hmm…and that willl change our directory reviews too, methinks….gotta look more into that for our clients….

    ;-|

    Jim

  12. Chris Silver Smith Says:

    I think that we’ll be seeing yet more mergers and acquisitions between yellow pages companies in the coming year, particularly in the U.S..

    I think this is a good thing, and it makes sense.

  13. Greg Sterling Says:

    Chris:

    I’m sure you’re right. Do you think the market will consolidate into two or three major publishers?

  14. Chris Silver Smith Says:

    You want me to predict a specific number? :-)

    Currently, I’m thinking three are likely, but if impetus begins it could result in a rollup to two.

  15. troy Says:

    I would not be surprised to see YPG increasing prices across the board in the coming months. Feel bad for the Canadian small businesses that they now have less alternatives.

  16. Jim W Says:

    #troy
    Interesting you fear for the small businesses.
    Yet I know so many of them who have totally stopped advertising in print phonebooks. Totally and forever. Ypg, CanPages or any other.
    If YPG tries to increase prices after they merge with CanPages, they will lose even more customers, and at a faster rate.
    Also I live in Toronto and I do not know anyone anymore who says they use print yellowpages. Not a single one.
    So if no-one keeps a phone book, then how can online be only an alternative and not a substitution?
    Online is a thousand times better than what any print book can do: fresher data, rich content (like videos), multi-keyword search, search on map or with distance, give me the directions and so many other things.
    And pretty soon, mobile search will have taken over even web search.
    So of course my position is clear: one book is enough. And probably too much in most part of the country. Ypg has better improve its position in the web or will go the way of the dodo before they know…
    And if they try to increase prices, they will accelerate their fall.

  17. Me1972 Says:

    I feel sorry for both companies, being an ex Super Pages and Trader Corp employe.. YPG has terrible ideas and processes that ran both companies into the ground and in the process made employees and customers hate dealings with any thing YPG, Canpages was another option at least. Plan for mass buyouts to make everything it look good on paper.

  18. opto2 Says:

    I for one love my phone book. We are from Manitoba and have two books to choose from. Yellow pages is not the book that everyone here loves, it is a large print phone book with very reasonable rates and great customer service. Long live this great “little guy” who is more than holding its own against yellow pages group.

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