Cobalt Acquires Florida Yellow Pages Directories

Louisville, Kentucky, Spanish yellow page directory publisher Cobalt Ventures acquired Miami En Sus Manos and Broward-Palm Beach En Sus Manos. The transaction forms part of the increasing consolidation, of the still very fragmented Spanish-language Yellow Pages sector. The directories will take on the name Enlace, the Spanish word for "link," the brand of Cobalt's other directories. Cobalt didn't disclose the purchase price. No terms of the transaction were disclosed.

The Florida directories are based in Miami and the coverage area includes Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Boca Raton and Palm Beach, Florida. Approximately 250,000 copies of the yellow page directories are distributed annually. The next Miami directory will be published in December, 2005.

Cobalt Publishing will add five to 10 corporate jobs in Louisville because of the South Florida acquisitions. The company has 150 employees, including about 25 in Louisville. Cobalt started out early last year by acquiring the publishers of Spanish-language directories serving Nashville and the region of Louisville, Lexington and Cincinnati. It has bought about 12 directories in the past year and plans to obtain more, Blue said. Cobalt Publishing publishes 16 directories, all in Spanish, throughout Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and Tennessee. The company serves over 10,000 advertisers with a combined circulation of 1.2 million copies.

Cobalt targets markets that have large Hispanic populations or fast-growing Hispanic communities. It is backed by Blue Equity, a private equity firm based in Louisville, Kentucky.

Jonathan Blue, Managing Director of Blue Equity, LLC, the parent entity, said “The purchase of the Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and Palm Beach directories expands our nationwide footprint into South Florida, an area dominated by the Hispanic demographic. We are now able to provide the local and national advertising client the ability to reach this ever expanding customer base through our directories from California to the Northeast to South Florida.”

Three consolidators

Cobalt Publishing is one of three independent, non utilities company backed, consolidators in the Hispanic Yellow Pages sector. The other two consolidators are Hispanic Yellow Pages Network (HYP-Network). HYP-Network is backed by private equity house Abry Partners and publishes 15 Spanish-language directories in 8 markets. HYPA, Hispanic Yellow Pages of America, is the third player. HYPA is backed by Chicago-based private equity house Hispania Capital Partners. These consolidators try to gain economies of scale (technology, purchasing power, etc…). Additionally, they aim to increase national advertising revenues by providing a wide footprint of Yellow Pages publication all over the U.S.

Annual advertising revenues of the independent Spanish-language Yellow Pages Publishing sector are approximately US$ 100 million.

There are currently 215 Spanish-language Yellow Pages directories published in the United States (7,000 in the general market). Of those, almost half (83) are published in California, 18 in Texas, 11 in Colorado, 10 in Florida and 9 in New York.