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ICG Gatecrashes £900m Battle For Argus Media

(c) Sky News 2016

A London-listed asset manager has gatecrashed the £900m bidding war for Argus Media, one of the world's largest providers of data about oil and other commodities.

Sky News has learnt that ICG (LSE: 138026.L - news) - also known as Intermediate Capital Group - has tabled an offer to buy a sizeable stake in Argus, which is one of the UK's biggest privately owned companies.

ICG, which provides private debt, credit and equity across a range of industries, is an unexpected interloper into what has become one of the City's most hotly contested auctions so far this year.

Argus is currently owned by its founders, the Nasmyth family, its executive chairman Adrian Binks, and its management team.

Some of the existing shareholders want to sell part or all of their stakes while others are keen to remain on board and see the company use new financial firepower to make a string of acquisitions.

The other bidders for Argus are a joint proposal from Charterhouse, a private equity firm, and the Canada Pension Plan; Hellman & Friedman, another buyout firm; and either General Atlantic or Permira.

Temasek Holdings, Singapore's state investment fund, and the Rothschild Group, which were reported last week to be among the final bidders, are no longer involved in the process, according to an insider.

It (Other OTC: ITGL - news) is unclear whether ICG intends to partner with another buyer later in the auction or would sell some of the equity it purchases to one of its own investors.

Argus has become a sought-after asset at a time when reliable providers of data and intelligence on commodities markets are attracting increasing audiences, even as oil and commodities prices continue to trade at depressed levels by recent standards.

The privately owned company competes with news and pricing agencies such as Platts and Thomson Reuters (Dusseldorf: TOC.DU - news) , and last year made a pre-tax profit of £32.5m.

It employs 750 people and is based in London.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch is overseeing the Argus auction.

ICG declined to comment.