British publishing giant IPC Magazines Group, publisher of the country’s best-selling women’s weekly and monthly titles, is in talks with the world’s largest media group AOL Time Warner.

The negotiations could lead to a takeover of IPC which dominates the UK publishing market, not only with its leading women’s magazines but also ‘ladmags’ like Loaded, lifestyle titles such as Country Life and mass-circulation television and radio guide, TV Times.

Although profitable (£3.8 million pretax in the six months ended March31) IPC is beset by debt, thanks to a $1.4 billion millstone hung around its neck during a management buyout from Reed Elsevier in 1998, with merchant bank CinVen taking a 55% controlling stake.

Observers believe the bank is now champing at the bit to recoup its massive investment and spurring IPC into a sale that may not be welcome to its management.

However, it is likely there are other suitors ogling IPC which has recently been conducting soundings in the marketplace. Insiders also hint that the AOL TW deal could founder on price.

Neither side was available for comment – likewise incommunicado was reins-holder CinVen.

News source: Wall Street Journal