When’s the right time to sell your media business? Going by some recent stats from Jordan Edmiston Group, the first six months of 2013 weren’t a very improvement on the half of 2012.

— B2B online media and technology: Deal volume was down 26 percent compared to the same period in 2012 for B2B online media and technology, while value was down sharply due to the lack of gargantuan deals such as the $7.1 billion Alibaba/Yahoo deal in 2012.

B2C online consumer media: Vulume was down 10 percent while value was pretty much flat. 

Business to business media: The sector, which doesn’t include online, saw value more than double, though volkume was up just seven percent. Total transaction value however is much lower than its online counterpart.

Consumer magazines: Consumer magazines also say value more than double, though volume was down slightly. Like JEGI’s business to business media, this sector is much smaller than its online tech and media counterpart in termsx of absolute transaction value. 

Education information technology and training: This was one area that saw a signifcantly sized bump but that was down primarily to one deal – the €3.3 billion (£2.2 billion) acqusition of Springer Science & Medical by BC Partners. 

Overall, JEGI describes activity across media and marketing as flat year-on-year in the first half of 2013

JEGI 2013 M&A activity

Cheap debt = patience?

One possible explanation, at least when it comes to the UK, could be offered by recent analysis from the Centre for Management Buyout Research at Imperial College, covered in the Financial Times (£). 

According to the centre, equity firms in the UK are taking advantage of cheap debt to refinance businesses, rather than looking for exits. Comparing the first six months of 2012 to the first six months of 2013,  the number and value of buyouts has decreased, while the converse has happened to refinancing deals.

Buyouts: The number of deals fell to 81 from 117, while value fell from £8.6 billion to £6 billion. 

Refinancing: Refinancing volume grew from 20 to 25 year-on-year, and value grew from £3.4 billion to £7.6 billion. 

So as UK buyout deals lost £2.6 billion in value, equity firms were taking on £3.2 billion more in debt than they had the previous year. 

Duncan Painter, CEO at B2B events and publishing company Top Right Group, made this point last week. Painter says there is little point trying to sell the business in part or whole for at least five years as owners Apax Partners and Guardian Media Group won’t get a decent return on their investment.

TRG has instead took advantage of cheap debt and refinanced with new terms giving it bigger headroom on debt-to-EBITDA ratio, as it invests in organic growth and acquisitions in emerging economies.

If you can get cheap debt to build value, it could make sense to hang on a little longer before trying to sell.