Nielsen Company files for an IPO


RBR-TVBR first reported in January 2007 that The Nielsen Company, until then known as VNU, would be reworked by its private equity investors for an IPO. That reworking has been accomplished and Nielsen Holdings BV filed with the SEC on Thursday to sell up to $1.75 billion of stock to the public.

Rumors that the IPO was near for the TV ratings giant (and new US radio ratings competitor) surfaced in late April. With the economy improving and corporate profits on the rise, it appears Wall Street is opening the window for companies to go public.

The lead underwriters for the Nielsen IPO are JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley, with participation (thus far) from Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank Securities, Goldman Sachs and Citi. One surprise in the IPO is that Nielsen will continue to be incorporated in The Netherlands, rather than reincorporate in the US, where its headquarters is located (at 770 Broadway in Manhattan, to be specific).

Since the $9 billion leveraged buyout in 2006 by Alpinvest, the Blackstone Group, the Carlyle Group, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Hellman & Friedman and Thomas H. Lee Partners, those private equity owners brought in David Calhoun from General Electric as a heavy-hitter CEO to refocus the company and prepare for the eventual IPO. He sold off the company’s publications in Europe and the US, including The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, Adweek, Brandweek, Mediaweek, The Clio Awards, Backstage and Film Journal International.

Beginning with its Q1 2010 financial report, Nielsen has gone to a new segment reporting system:  the “Watch” segment, which includes its TV, radio, online and mobile ratings businesses; the “Buy” segment, consisting of Nielsen’s retail measurement and consumer panel businesses; and the Expositions business (by far the smallest), consisting of the trade shows remaining now that the publications have been divested.

As is usual with an IPO filing, lots of blanks remain to be filled in. There’s no indication how many shares will be sold or what percentage of the equity that $1.75 billion will claim, while the rest remains with the current owners. The filing states that the company does not plan to pay a dividend to shareholders for the foreseeable future.

Nielsen (and VNU before it) has long had public bonds, so there are no financial revelations in the IPO filing. As previously reported, full year 2009 revenues were basically flat, up only $2 million to $4.8 billion.

The IPO filing does not yet state which stock exchanges Nielsen plans to be listed on in the US and elsewhere, nor what ticker symbol it will use in the US.

RBR-TVBR observation: With its solid businesses and long, long history, Nielsen should find a warm welcome from investors. That will not, however, signal an opening of the IPO window for its primary clients, broadcasters, whose economics are quite different.