Loot, Britain's bible for flat-hunters and secondhand bargain seekers, is to be acquired for £189.8m by loss-making internet and telephone directory services group Scoot. The buy is Scoot's first move into traditional print media, presenting it with an extensive readership base which it hopes to exploit via new distribution channels such as interactive TV, WAP and the internet.

The combined group will target five core markets: home and gardens, business services, motoring, travel and entertainment, and retailing. Said Scoot chief executive Robert Bonnier cryptically: "We instantly populate our transaction exchange with additional buyers and sellers."

Loot, which currently reports pre-tax profits of £2.2m and net assets of £4m, was launched in London 15 years ago. It publishes 28 editions in the UK and Ireland with a total weekly circulation of 280,000 and its classified advertising website is the most popular in the UK, attracting 13.8m page impressions monthly.

Scoot, on the other hand, posted pre-tax losses for the six months to March, up from £10.2m to £10.5m.

The £178m cash element of the deal was funded by French media group Vivendi, thereby increasing its holding in Scoot from about 11.5% to 22.4%.

News source: Financial Times