Owner of Nielsen accepts a bid for TV-rating service

March 09, 2006|By BLOOMBERG NEWS

NEW YORK -- VNU NV, the Dutch owner of the Nielsen television rating service, accepted a sweetened 7.5 billion-euro ($8.9 billion) offer from a group of buyout firms including Blackstone Group and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.

The New York-based firms bid 28.75 euros a share, the company said yesterday. Shares of VNU traded below the offer price amid concern that the deal might not go through because some shareholders have lobbied for a breakup of the company.

Nevertheless, the agreement ends almost two months of speculation over whether the group would make a formal bid for VNU, which owns market researcher ACNielsen and publishes Hollywood Reporter and Billboard magazines. VNU became vulnerable to a takeover after a shareholder revolt forced the company to abandon a $6.3 billion purchase of IMS Health Inc. in November.

"There won't be a deal at all if two or three large shareholders don't agree with the current bid," said Sander Van Oort, a media analyst at F. van Lanschot Bankiers in Den Bosch, Netherlands. "Some large shareholders were looking for a significantly higher bid, and 25 cents above the initial range is not within the definition of `significantly higher."

Shares of VNU gained as much as 64 cents, or 2.3 percent, to 28 euros, and traded at 27.42 euros yesterday in Amsterdam.

VNU said separately that net income for the year that ended Dec. 31 increased to 256 million euros, or 1 euro a share, from 246 million euros, or 97 cents, a year earlier. Sales rose 4 percent to 3.46 billion euros.

VNU is the biggest buyout announced this year. Buyout firms, flush with cash after raising $134 billion for new takeover funds last year, have announced a record $61.5 billion of deals globally this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The group with Blackstone and KKR also includes Amsterdam-based AlpInvest Partners NV, Washington-based Carlyle Group, San Francisco-based Hellman & Friedman LLC and Boston-based Thomas H. Lee Partners. LP. London-based Permira Advisers Ltd. pulled out last month.

The buyout group said it intends to keep VNU "substantially together as an integrated company." Hugh Morrison, a spokesman for the group, declined to comment beyond the statement.

The purchase is "conditioned" on 95 percent of shareholders tendering their shares, VNU said. It expects the public offer for its shares to begin in early to mid- April, and the process to be completed by mid-May.

VNU won't pay a final dividend on its common shares, it said. Its dividend was 55 cents last year.

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