Nielsen in talks over $2.9bn sale of consumer goods data unit

Advent International is in talks to buy a key business unit of the data company Nielsen, in a deal that would value it at about $2.9bn, according to two people familiar with the matter. 

The US-based private equity group is looking into acquiring Nielsen’s Global Connect unit, which tracks sales of consumer goods. It is not clear whether a formal offer has been made and the people cautioned that there was no certainty a deal would proceed. 

Such a transaction would effectively break Nielsen into two. The company currently comprises two units, Global Connect and Global Media, which provides data on media consumption including television ratings. Advent’s interest is in the former, which sells data on consumer goods purchases to retailers and manufacturers. 

Advent and Nielsen declined to comment.

Nielsen, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, has a market capitalisation of $4.7bn and net debt of $8.7bn. Its shares have tumbled since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, falling from as much as $22 in late February to $13.25.

The company has been reviewing options for the unit for some time. Nielsen said in November last year that it was planning to spin off Global Connect into a separate publicly traded entity. The company has been under pressure from the hedge fund Elliott Management which bought a stake in 2018.

Nielsen has been in private equity hands before. A group of buyout companies including Blackstone and Hellman & Friedman, alongside Carlyle, KKR and others, took it private in 2006 and listed it in 2011 with total debt of more than $8bn.

Shares in Nielsen were 3.4 per cent lower in afternoon trading in New York.

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