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Reuters to Buy Multex

News and financial data provider Reuters Group , looking for new revenues amid a downturn in financial markets, is acquiring Web-based research distribution company Multex in a deal valued at about $195 million (121 million British pounds) in cash.

The announcement came as Reuters announced a loss of $630 million (394 million pounds) for 2002 and said it would cut 3,000 jobs, or 18 percent of its staff, by 2005 as it copes with lower sales from financial services customers.

Revenues were $5.7 billion for 2002 (3.575 billion pounds), down about 8 percent from the prior year.

Multex is considered one of a group of Silicon Alley companies that went public during the dot-com boom and only one of a handful that survived the downturn in financial markets that began in 2000. It offers financial information and distributes research, via Web platforms, on over 25,000 companies around the world.

The acquisition is part of a turnaround plan by Reuters, called "Fast Forward," to stanch its red ink amid lower revenues and beef up its online pipeline of market data and information products.

In addition to building new financial data products with the deal, Reuters said it would use Multex's distribution and research-aggregating products to create segmented online financial news, data and research products for retail consumers, as well as corporate and media customers. The move would help the company replace revenues from its financial-data terminals, which it said would fall by more than 9 percent in the first quarter and even more in the second quarter.

Tom Glocer, Reuters Group chief executive, said in a statement that Multex would play an important part in Reuters' "Fast Forward" turnaround plan. "We know this company well. It offers compelling information and products that are valued by financial professionals and consumers alike. At a time of structural change in the financial markets, its investment research assets and relationships are particularly attractive."

The new round of layoffs, announced as part of the "Fast Forward" plan, were larger than expected and follow layoffs of over 2,000 that have hit the financial information giant in the past two years. The company's workforce of about 16,000 is expected to be trimmed to about 13,000 by 2005.

Although it has been profitable, Multex has suffered from the prolonged downturn in financial markets along with Reuters. During 2002, it took in $92.4 million and declared a net loss of $7.4 million. Its cash earnings, or earnings before interest, taxes depreciation and amortization, were $11.5 million for the year.

The London-based Reuters, which already owns about 6 percent of Multex's 32.5 million outstanding shares, said it would pay $7.35 (4.56 pounds) per share in cash for the New York company. Senior management of Multex, who own approximately 5 percent of Multex not including options, have committed to support the deal by tendering their shares.

Isaak Karaev, chairman and CEO of Multex, said the two companies have a working relationship and are familiar with each other's lines of business, both in institutional and retail markets.

Steven Gear, an online media analyst and managing director of Wunderlich Research Partners, noted that Reuters is paying close to a 60 percent premium for Multex.

He said the acquisition and its price indicate that strategic buyers are increasingly interested in purchasing online content companies in certain sectors. "I would not be surprised to see more strategic or financial buyers emerge in the value-added online content area," he said.