BRUSSELS: The European Union's competition commissioner Neelie Kroes (pictured) on Tuesday gave a qualified thumbs-up to WPP Group's hostile bid for Taylor Nelson Sofres.

Final approval, however, is conditional on WPP's divestment of TNS' Television Audience Measurement unit in the thirty-nation European economic area, plus the TNS market research service operation in Ireland.

Which points to a tradeoff between 'steely Neelie' and Sir Martin Sorrell, insofar as he had already offered to make these disposals.

Quoth Kroes: "I am satisfied that WPP's commitments will ensure that customers will not suffer as a result of this merger in terms of reduced choice or higher prices as regards both TV audience measurement throughout the EEA and market research in Ireland."

"Satisfied" Kroes may be, but many TNS shareholders are not. They regard WPP's offer as inadequate after he refused to sweeten the deal. They are likely to heed the TNS board's repeated urging to reject Sorrell's shilling.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff