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Elliott and Brookfield to buy TV ratings group Nielsen for $16bn

A private equity consortium led by Elliott Management and Brookfield Asset Management has agreed to acquire television ratings group Nielsen for $16bn, including debt, in the largest buyout since Russia invaded Ukraine.

The US and Canadian investors will pay $28 per share in cash to Nielsen shareholders. The revised offer is 10 per cent higher than its earlier bid and represents a 60 per cent premium to the company’s value before reports of a potential sale first emerged.

Elliott and Brookfield’s take-private of Nielsen highlights how financing markets, particularly in the US, remain active amid rising interest rates and concerns of a prolonged war in Europe. The consortium will inject $5.7bn in equity and the remaining $10.3bn will be provided by large banks and private lenders.

As part of the agreement, Nielsen’s advisers still have the opportunity to seek a higher bid from another buyer under a “go-shop” clause that is valid for 45 days. In past years, several private equity groups, including Blackstone and Carlyle, had expressed interest in buying the TV ratings group but ultimately walked away.

Tuesday’s deal signals that Nielsen’s private equity buyers remain confident in its core business of measuring advertising reach on cable and broadcast, despite being threatened by the rise of streaming platforms such as Netflix. For years, Nielsen has struggled to retain its dominance as an intermediary for buyers of advertising and battled cable and broadcast networks over its measurement data.

However, industry observers have said there was an opportunity in the market for companies that could offer more sophisticated audience data about streaming services.

Elliott highlighted Nielsen’s new measurement product, Nielsen ONE, which cuts across network TV and streaming media in unveiling their deal.

“After months of deep market analysis, industry diligence and management reviews, we are firmly convinced that Nielsen will continue to be the gold standard for audience measurement as it executes on the Nielsen ONE road map,” said the firm’s managing partner Jesse Cohn and senior portfolio manager Marc Steinberg in a statement.

For Elliott, the Nielsen takeover represents the second largest buyout this year involving a company it has long held a large public stake in. Best-known for buying minority positions and waging bruising activist campaigns, Elliott is now becoming the architect of some of the private equity industry’s largest buyouts.

In January, Elliott and software buyout firm Vista Equity Partners led the $16.5bn takeover of Citrix, which had been a longtime holding of the firm’s activist hedge fund. In the fall, Elliott sold Athenahealth — a business it had waged war against and then taken private — to a consortium of private equity buyers for $17bn.

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