VNU to acquire ACNielsen for $2.3 billion

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Dutch publisher VNU plans to acquire ACNielsen, the world'slargest market research firm, for $2.3 billion.

In a deal expected to close in the first quarter of 2001, VNU will pay$36.75 a share for ACNielsen, a 49% premium over ACNielsen's closing stockprice on Friday. The acquisition reunites ACNielsen with its former TVratings unit, Nielsen Media Research, which was spun off separately by Dun &Bradstreet, former parent of both companies, in 1996. VNU acquired NielsenMedia research last year.

VNU called the deal a move to bolster its international market researchbusiness with a "branded and recession-resistant business." In October,however, ACNielsen noted third-quarter sales declines in its BASES andMarket Decisions concept and test marketing businesses due to clientrestructuring, primarily at Procter & Gamble Co. But ACNielsen has beengaining share on its primary rival in the global market for syndicatedretail scanner data and analysis, Information Resources Inc., in recentyears. ACNielsen has global revenues of $1.5 billion, compred to $535million for Information Resources.

In announcing the deal, ACNielsen confirmed it would meet First Callconsensus analyst earnings estimates of $1.40 a share for 2000, after IRIlast week warned that earnings for its fourth quarter would be flat, 5 centsa share below analyst estimates.

In pending litigation, IRI is seeking damages of up to $1 billion fromACNielsen, alleging unfair competitive practices in the mid-1990s. The suitcould come to trial next year.

Copyright December 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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