February 8, 2019 / 2:27 PM / 2 months ago

Nielsen shortlists private equity bidders-sources

Feb 8 (Reuters) - A private equity consortium led by Blackstone Group LP and Hellman & Friedman LLC, as well as a grouping comprising Advent International and Goldman Sachs Group Inc’s buyout arm, are through to the second round of bidding for Nielsen Holdings Plc, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

Nielsen said in September it would expand a review of strategic alternatives to include a sale of the entire TV ratings company, after coming under pressure to do so from hedge fund Elliott Management Corp.

Private equity firms Apollo Global Management LLC and Bain Capital LP are also through to the next round of bidding in the auction for Nielsen, which is expected to be completed by March, the sources said.

The sources cautioned that no deal is certain and asked not to be identified because the matter is confidential. Blackstone, Apollo and Bain declined to comment, while Nielsen, Hellman & Friedman, Advent and Goldman Sachs did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

Nielsen, best known for providing audience figures that are used to determine advertising rates for TV commercials, has been seeking to adapt to the media industry’s shift to digital advertising and video consumption on mobile devices.

Before exploring an outright sale, Nielsen had said it was only exploring a sale of its “buy” segment, which provides marketing data on what customers purchase, and not its “watch” segment, which offers viewership and listenership data and analytics across television, radio, online and mobile devices.

Nielsen, which has a market capitalization of $9 billion and debt of $8.6 billion, faces competition from start-ups using automated content recognition (ACR) to track viewing habits via mobile devices and smart TVs. It acquired Gracenote in 2017 in a bid to bolster its ACR capabilities. (Reporting by Liana B. Baker and Joshua Franklin in New York Editing by Susan Thomas)

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