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IHS to Acquire Carfax Owner Polk
By JOSEPH B. WHITE – From The Wall Street Journal

Business information provider IHS Inc. said Sunday it has a deal to buy R.L.Polk & Co., owner of the used-car shopping tool Carfax and a leading provider of data about the automotive market.

IHS didn’t disclose terms of the acquisition ahead of a more detailed announcement planned for early Monday morning. People familiar with Polk’s operations had previously estimated the company could fetch as much as $1 billion.

Polk released a statement Sunday evening confirming the agreement with IHS.

Polk, based in Southfield, Mich., is a closely-held company with operations in 11 countries. Carfax, which provides information about the repair histories of used cars, is Polk’s best-known consumer product. The company also gathers and analyzes detailed vehicle registration and ownership data that is widely used in the auto industry for marketing and product planning.

IHS, of Englewood, Colo., is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, and had revenue of $1.5 billion last year. The company, with a market capitalization of about $7 billion, offers forecasting and data services in a wide range of industries, and has made a series of acquisitions to broaden its reach.

Polk, founded in 1870, got into the business of collecting automotive-market data in the U.S. during the 1920s at the behest of Alfred P. Sloan, the architect of General Motors Co.’s dominance of the mid-20th-century auto industry. Descendants of the founder still control the company. The company hired Evercore Partners Inc. in March to look at its options.

Carfax, which Polk acquired fully in 1999, is a dominant provider of detailed information about used cars that consumers or dealers can acquire for a fee. Carfax has promoted the service heavily on car-shopping websites and in television ads that urge consumers not to buy a used car without first obtaining a Carfax report. Carfax recently expanded its operations to Europe.

In April, a group of 120 dealers sued Carfax, alleging that the company engaged in anticompetitive practices. Polk said at the time that it didn’t expect the suit would have an effect on its evaluation of “strategic growth alternatives.”

IHS said in a release Sunday that its acquisition is subject to antitrust review and other conditions.