Nielsen Refutes TNS-GfK Intervention Intention

16 May 2008

NEW YORK: Quelling speculation that The Nielsen Company might intervene in the TNS-GfK-WPP love triangle, the former's ceo David Calhoun said the respective strengths of the two rival research groups – consumer panels and customised research – are not in the "sweet spot" of his strategy.

"Consolidation in and of itself I don't think is a particularly attractive prospect for us," he said, distancing himself from reports that Nielsen was considering an offer for Germany's GfK.

Calhoun also claimed to be unfazed at the planned merger of GfK with London-headquartered Taylor Nelson Sofres, dismissing this as unlikely to make a significant change in the "competitive landscape".

Although the merger would create the globe's second largest research entity, both TNS and GfK are better positioned in Europe than in the US or developing markets, domains in which Nielsen is predominant.

In disclaiming interest in GfK, Nielsen has intentionally or otherwise weakened the hand played by WPP Group, which twice in as many weeks has made a rejected takeover play for TNS.

A Nielsen-GfK merger that left TNS high and dry would have suited Sir Martin Sorrell's plans very nicely. But analysts now believe that Nielsen's opt-out has effectively scuppered the latter's ambitions.

According to a Citigroup research note, prospects for a TNS-GfK deal have improved. It now rates the chances of a WPP takeover of TNS at just 15%, adding that this woulld need to be priced at £2.50-£2.60 per share "to be even vaguely competitive".

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff