Nielsen had an up year


2008 revenues grew 6% to $5 billion for The Nielsen Company, with operating income, adjusted for one-time charges, up 12.5%. The company’s media ratings business segment was the star performer, while the business media publishing unit struggled.

“Like everyone else, we’re looking for signs of stability,” said CFO Brian West in his conference call with bond analysts and investors, adding that he doesn’t know yet if the economy has hit bottom. So far 2009 is starting out a lot like the back half of 2008 – and the two halves of 2008 could not have been more different, he noted. First half revenues were up 7% and the second half only 2% on a constant currency basis, which is how Nielsen likes to measure its own performance, since it operates in so many countries. So, the full year was up 4.5% by that measure.

The second half of 2008 saw a pronounced slowdown in Nielsen’s consumer services research and consulting business and pressure as well on its media measurement business, although that was still the strongest segment. For the Business Media division, the trade show business turned sharply negative, plus the publications were hit by an ad decline.

For the year, revenues rose 10.2% (constant currency) for the Media segment to $1.74 billion. That included a 9% gain for Nielsen Media Research (NMR), the US television measurement business, as more Local People Meter markets were rolled out. The gain was 11% in Q4, but West noted that growth rate will not continue in 2009. Adjusted operating income for Media grew to $333 million for the year (before $109 in restructuring and impairment charges) from $264 million.

Business Media revenues dropped 10.5% to $440 million. The reported operating loss of $251 million adjusted to a positive $88 million, a 1% gain, after removing $339 million in restructuring and impairment charges.

Consumer Services revenues rose 3.8% to $2.84 million. Adjusted operating income of $334 million (excluding $75 million in restructuring and impairment charges) was up from $307 million.