Investors' Relief as VNU Posts Small Profit Increase

14 March 2002

Haarlem, Netherlands-based global business information group VNU on Wednesday reported net profits for 2001 marginally up by 2% to €416 million ($366.50m; £258.63m). But on a per-share basis earnings declined 3% to €1.73.

The results, which exclude goodwill and extraordinary items, bettered profit warnings issued late last year that a 5% profits slide was on the cards.

The extraordinary items include last year’s cost of acquiring global market research giant ACNielsen. The buy greatly strengthened VNU’s hold on what it calls ‘must have’ business information – especially Nielsen's TV audience measurement system which dominates the US market.

The Dutch giant’s performance was not helped by falling ad revenues at its periodicals, among them Hollywood Reporter and Billboard. But fears about its trade shows unit in the aftermath of September 11 proved groundless after only a handful of events suffered cancellation. Revenues at its telephone directories business were sustained, although progress was hindered by a slowdown in technology investments.

2001 also saw the disposal by VNU of its European consumer magazines division to Sanoma WSOY of Finland. This, said VNU chairman Rob van den Bergh, “has given our company more focus on growth and more recession-resilience.” He plans to relocate from the group’s Haarlem HQ to its New York office.

At the close of business Wednesday, VNU shares on the Amsterdam bourse ended €1.10 higher at €37.50.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff