Online directory listings for small businesses – Thomson Local directories latest casualty in UK

16/08/2013

Pressures on the print directory and magazine world continue, with one of the largest UK directories going into administration and online directory listings for small businesses take over. The UK media economy is a proven early adopter of trends that go mainstream in many other markets 2-5 years later, so this latest news will pressure the valuations of many traditional directory publishers.

Thomson Local was rescued from administration this week at the cost of 170 redundancies among its 490-strong workforce.

The telephone directory business was bought by Corporate Media Partners, which runs a 118 118 enquiries line.

The deal will see the firm take over Thomson's assets and brand for an undisclosed sum, in a pre-pack administration deal.

Thomson's annual revenues fell to £46m in 2012, from around £125m around six years ago. The company, which has 22m copies of its blue telephone book in circulation, made a £4.5m loss in the first six months of this year.

That position was not sustainable, said Ian Corfield, a partner at administrators Grant Thornton. "170 people were sadly made redundant... and the question was how do we best try to preserve 320 jobs," said Corfield.

Some redundant staff reported being left stranded at Thomson's head office in Farnborough Hampshire, after being told to give up their company cars on the spot, leaving some of them stuck hundreds of miles from homes, as far away as Wales and Exeter.

Staff had been aware the company was in trouble. Thomson's Italian parent company Seat Pagine Gialle SpA is currently enmeshed in insolvency proceedings.

Yellow Pages deal

The move comes just weeks after its rival Yellow Pages was seized by its lenders, in a restructuring deal that left nothing for shareholders but aimed to save jobs.

The deal cuts £800m of the company's £2.3bn debts, which were largely run up via foreign acquisitions during the last decade's credit bubble.

The phone books and digital services firm, which rebranded itself from Yell last year, has 12,000 employees.

Lenders will take ownership of the firm and slow the repayment of its debts.

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