Has EMAP’s sell-off process begun a bit earlier than expected? Parent company Top Right Group has entered an agreement to sell Infrastructure Journal to Euromoney Institutional Investor for £12.5 million (release).

Top Right Group CEO Duncan Painter said in June, after announcing some robust 2012 results: “If you do the maths, it doesn’t take you long to realise it doesn’t serve us very well to sell any of our businesses. What serves us best is to grow those businesses, make the returns higher and create value for our shareholders.”

But he now says: “We believe Euromoney Institutional Investor will be a good long term home for the brand [IJ].”

Painter’s estimation was that there would be no large-scale divestments before 2017 or 2018 and it doesn’t appear that this sale affects that plan.

But while he was also careful not to rule out any individual sales, this still comes as a mild surprise. EMAP was known to be in conversations with several possible suitors for its B2B publishing brands in the past two years, but has clearly shifted its emphasis to organic growth, driven by subscriptions and digital products.

EMAP bought IJ in 2007 and, the company says, it’s consistently made a positive cash contribution. But Top Right says the £12.5 million bonanza price is more than “what could be generated in the medium term” if it stuck around – so, why not? Top Right says the cash will go towards funding new expansion, such as the recent push into Brazil.

Top Right is owned jointly by Guardian Media Group and Apax Partners, both of whom appear comfortable in waiting for a long-delayed exit. 

And why is Euromoney interested in buying IJ? Chairman Richard Ensor says (with my emphasis):

Infrastructure Journal is a business we have long admired and we are delighted that it is now part of our stable of global brands. With an estimated 57 trillion dollars of investment into infrastructure projects required around the world by 2030, we believe this part of the business-to-business information sector offers attractive growth fundamentals.

Euromoney aims to create a comprehensive market-leading infrastructure information provider by combining under the Infrastructure Journal brand the deals database and news coverage of Infrastructure Journal and the deals analysis, awards and conferences of Project Finance, a business that we have owned for 25 years.”

Euromoney remains a juggernaut in B2B media, making an improved £52.4 million in pre-tax profits in the six months to April. If anyone can make a multiplatform success of a B2B brand, it’s them.

Euromoney’s reference to the international opportunity is telling – increasingly, UK-based publishers are using UK assets as a springboard to launch titles and events across the world. You don’t see many B2B brands being launched specifically for the saturated UK market..

In the big picture view, there remains a lot of selling to do for the big beasts of B2B media. UBM, Haymarket, Incisive and (eventually) EMAP and others have legacy assets that don’t fit the modern, data-driven, digital product-centric and event-heavy model they aspire to.