- The Washington Times - Monday, January 16, 2006

THE HAGUE (AP) — Media research and publishing company VNU NV, owner of the U.S. Nielsen television ratings, said yesterday it received a buyout offer worth up to $8.87 billion from a group of private equity firms.

The bid ranged between $34 and $34.60 per share, VNU said. The company did not say what factors the final price would depend upon.

The consortium of bidders includes AlpInvest Partners, Blackstone Group, Carlyle Group, Hellman & Friedman, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., Permira and Thomas H. Lee Partners.

VNU shares opened higher but reversed course later, closing down 1.2 percent at $33.90 on the Euronext exchange.

The company, which said last month it had been approached by several parties, said the bid was nonbinding and that it is “not continuing discussions with any other party.”

“This proposal was made by this private equity consortium after several weeks of diligence and access to VNU management,” it said. “There can be no assurance that these discussions will result in any specific transaction and, if so, at what price and with what conditions. VNU expects to be able to provide further information within three to four weeks.”

The bid follows VNU’s failed $6.8 billion bid to buy IMS Health Inc., which fell apart in November during a shareholder rebellion that led to the resignation of VNU’s chief executive officer, Rob van den Bergh. Mr. van den Bergh said in a leaked internal VNU memo that he hoped for a “prompt resolution” and that management was “proceeding with discussions” with the potential buyers.

With about 255 million outstanding shares, the high end of the bid values VNU at nearly $8.87 billion. Market analysts told Dow Jones Newswires that the bid was low and estimated the company to be worth between $35 and $39 per share.

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