As Nielsen continues to work through the strategic review it has been conducting for nearly a year, one Wall Street firm expects it to soon come to some sort of a conclusion, “albeit outcome unknown,” says BMO Capital Markets equities researcher Daniel Salmon. “We expect [Nielsen] management to offer a bit more than a simple no comment.”
Writing in an update sent to investors Thursday, Salmon is referring to the publicly traded research firm’s second-quarter earnings call, which the company has yet to schedule, according to a report in Media Daily News. Following Publicis’ acquisition of Epsilon and WPP’s sale of a majority stake of Kantar, Nielsen is the last major industry data business under strategic review, the paper notes. In November 2018, the company hired Madison Avenue and media industry veteran David Kenny to serve as CEO as it “mulls it.”
Nielsen has offered scant comment on the direction of the review, but given M&A activity and Nielsen’s history of selling itself back and forth to private equity firms, it is possible it will once again be taken private, or possibly split up and be sold piecemeal, as has been regularly reported by Inside Radio. In May, Nielsen reportedly lowered its asking price and extended the deadline for final bids as it looks to sell the company as part of that strategic review. The measurement provider was “pulling out all the stops to keep its last remaining bidder at the table,” according to the New York Post.
According to BMO’s “sum of the parts” analysis of Nielsen’s current balance sheet, about 83% of the company’s enterprise value comes from its media research division, which Salmon says comprises “the vast majority of Nielsen’s value.” While BMO’s Salmon did not speculate on a suitor for Nielsen’s media business, he noted that the most likely candidate to acquire Nielsen’s consumer marketing research division is privately held rival IRI (Information Resources Inc.).