Reed said that in view of the economic downturn it believes it is "not possible to structure a transaction on acceptable terms at this time".
RBI, the sale of which could have netted Reed up to £850m, will from now on be managed as a separate division within Reed Elsevier by its senior management team, led by Keith Jones, who has been appointed chief executive of RBI. Jones was previously the chief executive of RBI UK.
However, Reed Elsevier insisted that it still plans to "divest RBI in the medium term when conditions are more favourable".
Reed Elsevier announced its intention to sell RBI in February, highlighting that its ad revenue model no longer fitted with the subscription based model of Reed Elsevier. Later, the Anglo-Dutch group added that it would be willing to provide financial support for a successful bid for the unit, which fell in value from an estimated value of £1.3bn when the sale was announced, to between £650 and £850m.
According to reports, the three buyers left in the running were private equity company Bain Capital, an investment group led by TPG and DLJ Merchant Banking Partners, and a consortium of private equity firms including Apollo Management.
Sir Crispin Davis, Reed Elsevier's chief executive, said: "While the short-term outlook for RBI is challenging given the recent deterioration in economic outlook, we believe the business has significantly more value to our shareholders than could be realised in a transaction at this time.
"RBI accounts for less than 10% of Reed Elsevier's operating profits and cash flows and our continuing ownership of RBI will in no way distract us from our strategic focus on delivering authoritative content through leading brands, driving online solutions, improving cost efficiency and continuing to reshape and strengthen our portfolio."
This article was first published on mediaweek.co.uk