‘£1.8bn bid’ for Auto Trader group

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A US investment giant is thought to be pondering a £1.8bn bid for the company behind the car buyers’ bible Auto Trader.

Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) is reported to be among a number of private equity companies 
circling Trader Media Group (TMG).

The deal would be a boost to TMG’s majority shareholder, the loss-making Guardian Media Group (GMG), which publishes the Guardian and Observer newspapers.

GMG, which holds a 50.1 per cent stake in the business, was in talks with it co-shareholder, private equity firm Apax Partners, to sell it.

But the talks have since sparked interest from other investors.

German media business Bauer, which owns the magazine FHM and Kiss and Magic radio stations, is also understood to be interested.

TMG is one of a number of GMG investments, designed to provide funding for the loss-making company. GMG slumped to a £75m pre-tax loss last year, because of a £44m deficit at the Guardian and the Observer, which is set to see the first round of compulsory redundancies in its history.

In September TMG chief executive John King stepped down, with Zillah Byng-Maddick brought in as interim chief executive.

Auto Trader makes most of its money through classified advertising.