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VNU says earnings growth in line with previous guidance

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Haarlem, the Netherlands—VNU, owner of Nielsen Media Research and VNU Business Media, announced Wednesday that it expects growth in what it calls underlying cash earnings per share (earnings per share before goodwill amortization and impairment charges) in constant currencies to be at the top end of the range of its previous guidance in August of 7% to 9%. The growth is being generated, in part, by AC Nielsen and Nielsen Media Research, but the company acknowledged that the weakened dollar is creating a drag on its results. VNU Chairman-CEO Rob van den Bergh said in a statement that the company plans to use the proceeds from the sale of its European directories business to pay down debt and use the remainder for acquisitions in "marketing and media information and trade show businesses." The statement appears to indicate that VNU is not interested, at least in the short term, in adding to its trade publication business. The company said it expects to take an impairment charge of 40 million euros in 2004 "due to lower than previously expected advertising revenues in some of its trade magazines in the Business Information group. Nonetheless, the company is confident that the market for trade publication advertising has "bottomed out."

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