July 23, 2017 / 8:19 PM / 4 months ago

Exclusive: KKR nears deal to acquire WebMD - sources

(Reuters) - Private equity firm KKR & Co LLP (KKR.N) is nearing an all-cash deal to acquire WebMD Health Corp WBMD.O, a U.S. online health publisher with a market capitalization of $2.1 billion, people familiar with the matter said on Sunday.

Co-CEO of KKR, Henry R. Kravis at Trump Tower in New York, U.S., January 12, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Segar

The deal would bring under one roof WebMD’s websites, such as WebMD.com, Medscape.com and MedicineNet.com, with those owned by another KKR company, Internet Brands Inc, including DentalPlans.com, VeinDirectory.org and AllAboutCounseling.com.

WebMD is close to agreeing to a deal to sell itself to KKR after running a five-month auction and soliciting bids from more than 100 companies and private equity firms, the people said. The deal is expected to be announced by Monday, the people added.

The exact price KKR was offering could not be learned.

WebMD declined to comment, and KKR did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A deal would make WebMD the latest healthcare media company to be sold. In December, j2 Global Inc’s (JCOM.O) digital media arm Ziff Davis LLC acquired Everyday Health Inc, a U.S. operator of health-related websites, for $465 million, including debt.

Founded in 1996, WebMD has grown into one of the most popular health websites for consumers and medical professionals, attracting more than 70 million monthly unique visitors in 2016, according to analytics company comScore Inc (SCOR.PK).

WebMD also owns medical news and education brand Medscape, which accounted for around 60 percent of its advertising revenue in 2016.

The New York-based company said in February it would explore its options, after a slowdown in advertising paid for by pharmaceutical companies. Activist hedge funds Blue Harbor Group and Jana Partners subsequently disclosed stakes in WebMD.

Internet Brands, which launched as CarsDirect.com in 1998, licenses and delivers its content and internet technology products and services to small and medium-sized businesses. It was acquired by KKR in 2014 for $1.1 billion from two other private equity firms, Hellman & Friedman LLC and JMI Equity.

Under KKR, the company has expanded its portfolio of brands to include Demandforce and Fodor’s Travel.

Reporting by Lauren Hirsch and Greg Roumeliotis in New York; Additional reporting by Liana B. Baker and Michael Flaherty in New York; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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