Canwest to buy NowPublic?

Big news earlier this week when Canwest Global Communications Corp announced initiatives to reduce their annualized operating costs by approximately $61 Million. The move translated into 560 layoffs – about five per cent of the company’s workforce through voluntary buyouts, attrition and reductions. Canwest management pointed to the current economic environment as well as the structural challenges in the conventional television model as the reasons why.

Interestingly, CEO Leonard Asper stresses in the announcement that Canwest is still eager to transform into a multi-platform media company and build its audience using digital media.

“Having completed an assessment of our Canadian operations and, after careful consideration, we are implementing a number of initiatives that will provide savings that will allow us to better compete in the current economic environment, without compromising our core products and services,” said Leonard Asper, President and CEO, Canwest. “It will not impact our strategy to invest in growth media like digital online, mobile and specialty channels.”

I’m not sure why Asper felt the need to assure shareholders and employees that the operating cost reduction wouldn’t impact their digital media strategy… until yesterday.

Word on Vancouver streets is that NowPublic is about to be acquired by Canwest. While a NowPublic acquisition may not seem like a significant transaction, keep in mind that Canwest’s current market capitalization is a paltry $80 Million – down from $700 Million only one year ago. NowPublic raised $10 Million in venture capital in July of 2007.

This rumour may have legs. NowPublic Co-founder Len Brody has advised Canwest in the past.