It’s becoming clearer just how much private equity group CVC was taken to the cleaners by James Packer when he sold them 75% of PBL Media.

CVC paid $1.5 billion for that 75% and the quality of performance of the major assets, Nine Network and ACP Magazines, is leaving a lot to be desired.

The latest audit circulation figures for magazines show worrying sales losses for some of ACP’s powerhouses, Woman’s Day, Cleo, TV Week, Cosmopolitan, Ralph, Dolly and the Australian Women’s Weekly. Some of these magazines also had double digit losses in readership.

Woman’s Day shed 7.6% of its circulation from December quarter 2006 to December quarter 2007. It’s now selling 465,565 copies a week (Seven’s Pacific Magazines’ New Idea lost 2.0% to 388,257 copies). The recently acquired NW lost 10.5% of its circulation, December to December.

The Weekly fell 5.7% and is now well under 600,000 copies a month at 570,228. Other ACP titles to lose ground included Cosmopolitan, off 13.6%, Cleo, off 11.2% and Dolly off 13.6%. TV Week shed more than 12%. Ralph lost 8.9% of its circulation. ACP magazines that improved their positions included Madison, up 2.1% and Harpers Bazaar up 4.8% December on December.

The Seven Network’s Pacific Magazines claimed its share of the magazine market rose to just over 28% in the December half year. Men’s Health and Women’s Health are new mags performing well for Pacific, with Better Homes and Gardens up 4.5% over the year, thanks to the success of the Friday night TV program on Seven.

News Ltd’s magazines businesses had bad news, with its Alpha magazine (a sports-orientated publication aimed at men) suffering an 18.8% drop in sales from December 2006 to December 2007.

But ACP dominates the magazine business, with around 48-50% of sales and readership, and the biggest share of industry revenues.

There was bad news too for Fairfax Business Magazines. BRW shed 7.8% of its circulation from December to December to end with weekly audited sales of 40,676. No wonder editors have just been changed.

Considering that ACP killed off The Bulletin and its final audit showed sales of just over 57,000 a week, you’d have to ask how long to go for BRW.

Peter Fray

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