VNU Profits From ‘Recession-Proof’ Business Plan

14 March 2003

Business information giant VNU is reaping dividends from its decision to diversify its business after 2002 earnings rose 9%.

In 2001, the group bolstered its research arm with the purchase of AC Nielsen. These operations have weathered the economic downturn much more successfully than its ad-dependent publishing business.

“VNU today is fundamentally stronger,” declared chairman Rob van den Bergh, “with a portfolio of market-leading brands and ‘must have’ information that is much more resistant to economic pressures than our previous mix, which relied heavily on cyclical advertising revenues.”

Earnings before goodwill and exceptional items rose 9% to €452 million ($491.2m; £305.9m) last year, though revenues (hit by the disposal of consumer and education information units) sank 11% to €4.3 billion.

Among VNU’s various units, performances varied considerably. There were revenue surges at its marketing and research division (up 11% to €2bn) and its media measurement arm (up 24% to €1.03bn). However, its business information subsidiary was down 16% to €775m as the ad recession took its toll.

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