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UPDATE 1-Springer Nature to launch IPO next week, if markets hold -sources

(Adds details on scope of potential listing, industry background)

By Arno Schuetze

FRANKFURT, March 2 (Reuters) – Springer Nature, the publisher of science magazines Nature and Scientific American, is preparing to launch its stock market listing next week, but may delay plans if the coronavirus continues to roil markets, people close to the matter said.

Its owners, buyout group BC Partners and publisher Holtzbrinck, plan to send out a so-called intention to float on March 9, with a view of listing the company in Frankfurt before Easter, the people said.

“But they will monitor markets closely until the last minute and it would not come as a surprise if they postpone,” one of the people said.

Another person said that so far, only companies whose specific markets have been impacted by the spread of coronavirus were prone to cancelling a listing, but now a broader slide in stock markets is denting overall investor appetite for IPOs.

“Right now, Springer is all set for the launch. But if markets continue to fall if may not be the right moment”, the person said.

BC Partners, Holtzbrinck and the banks declined to comment or were not immediately available.

The deal is being organised by Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, helped by BNP Paribas, HSBC , Barclays and Jefferies.

Springer Nature is targeting offering shares worth roughly 1.5 billion euros ($1.67 billion) in a deal that could value the company at 7 billion-8 billion euros, including debt, one of the people said.

Springer Nature cancelled a planned stock market listing in 2018, citing weak demand. Investors had balked at the sellers’ high price expectations and the large debt of Springer Nature.

Ninety One, asset management arm of South Africa-based banking group Investec, said on Monday it was pressing ahead with its March listing, while Germany’s chemicals group Atotech and Indonesia’s Lion Air postponed IPOs due to coronavirus.

Springer Nature was formed in 2015 through the merger of Holtzbrinck’s Macmillan Science and Education unit with BC Partners’ Springer business, which publishes scientific, technical and medical books and journals.

The tie-up was designed to make it easier to compete with the likes of RELX and Informa as publishers increasingly shift to digital content and readers use smartphones and tablets to access information. The two peers trade at 12 and 15 times their expected core earnings.

In 2019, Springer Nature posted sales of 1.72 billion euros. The group has annual earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization of about 620 million euros.

Springer Nature is a separate company from German publisher Axel Springer. ($1 = 0.8972 euros) (Reporting by Arno Schuetze in Frankfurt Editing by Edward Taylor and Matthew Lewis)

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