Chinese moguls swoop on website

The owner of financial news publisher Mergermarket has received a tentative takeover approach from a buyout fund backed by some of China’s richest men that could value the company at up to £1bn.

London-based XIO, a private equity firm that manages money for investors from mainland China, has held takeover talks with BC Partners. The British buyout firm bought Mergermarket three years ago. Sources said XIO, whose backers are thought to include some of the founders of Chinese ecommerce site Alibaba, wanted to pre-empt an auction of Mergermarket. BC had been expected to sell the business in the next few years.

The discussions are understood to be preliminary and may not lead to a deal. It is thought that other predators are stalking Mergermarket, which sells online corporate news and data.

BC reportedly spurned an approach from US buyout giant Carlyle, which owns the data provider Dealogic.

The mooted £800m-£1bn sale price could embarrass Pearson, former owner of the Financial Times. The FTSE 100 company sold Mergermarket to BC for £382m in late 2013.

It was one of John Fallon’s first significant disposals after he replaced Dame Marjorie Scardino as chief executive.

It is understood that XIO would accelerate Mergermarket’s expansion into Asia. In September, it bought American data company JD Power from S&P Global for $1.1bn.

Yesterday, Mergermarket said “there isn’t a sale process”. BC Partners declined to comment and XIO did not return calls.