November 26, 2017 / 8:54 PM / a year ago

EXCLUSIVE-Meredith nears deal to acquire magazine publisher Time -sources

(Adds more details on the companies)

By Liana B. Baker and Greg Roumeliotis

Nov 26 (Reuters) - U.S. media company Meredith Corp is nearing a deal to acquire Time Inc, the U.S. publisher of Sports Illustrated and Fortune magazines, for about $2 billion, people familiar with the matter said on Sunday.

The acquisition would be a coup for Meredith, which held unsuccessful talks to buy Time earlier this year as well as in 2013. Analysts have said that bulking up on publishing assets could give Meredith the scale required to spin off its broadcasting arm into a standalone company.

Meredith, whose bid for Time is backed by an affiliate of billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, may announce an agreement as early as this week, the sources said.

Koch Industries has been backing Meredith’s bid with $600 million in financing, sources previously told Reuters. It is not clear how much influence the Koch brothers would have over the combined publishing company.

The sources, who requested anonymity because the matter is confidential, cautioned that the talks could collapse at the last minute without a deal. Meredith, Time and a representative for Koch Industries did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Meredith, which publishes Better Homes & Gardens and Family Circle magazines, has a market capitalization of $2.7 billion. It tried to merge with Richmond, Virginia-based broadcaster Media General in 2015, but Nexstar Media Group Inc ended up acquiring that company for $4.6 billion.

Time, which also publishes the eponymous current affairs magazine, has been struggling in an industrywide decline in print media, as circulation shrinks and advertisers shift to digital platforms. (Reporting by Liana B. Baker and Greg Roumeliotis in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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