'Barbarians' Move on VNU

17 January 2006

As predicted [WAMN: 09-Jan-06], one of the several predators circling global media group VNU has pounced.

Netherlands-headquartered VNU, the jewel in whose crown is US research titan AC Nielsen, reported Monday it had received a tentative offer from a private equity consortium worth between €28 to €28.50 a share - maximum value €7.3 billion ($8.84bn; £4.99bn).

Mega-moolah, you might think? No way, say the moneymen.

Rabo Securities analyst Hans Slob said he would be surprised if large shareholders in VNU such as Fidelity Investments and Knight Vinke Asset Management would sell their shares at the offered price.

Agrees SNS Securities analyst Reinier Westeneng: "With this bid price, it is likely another consortium could come up with a higher offer."

The bidding consortium includes the original 'Barbarian at the Gates', Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, along with fellow US bettors AlpInvest Partners, Blackstone Group, Carlyle Group, Hellman & Friedman, Permira and Thomas H Lee Partners.

Although other groups have reportedly shown an interest in inspecting VNU's books, spokesman Will Thoretz said the company is talking only with the KKR consortium.

So far.

"The formal process of due diligence has begun," and a formal update on the negotiations will be issued "in three to four weeks", Thoretz added.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff