Nielsen Holdings plans to host management presentations for interested private equity buyers in January after hiring a new CEO earlier this month, according to people familiar with the matter.
David Kenny took over as Nielsen's CEO on Dec. 3, replacing Mitch Barnes. Nielsen had been reluctant to engage in sale discussions before naming a new CEO, said the people, who asked not to be named because discussions are private. Blackstone, working in tandem with Hellman & Friedman, and Bain Capital are planning to meet with Kenny to discuss a potential deal in January, said the sources. Other private equity firms will be invited as well, the people said.
Nielsen is a global information company most famous for its TV ratings. It also provides detailed data on retail and consumer behavior. It has a market capitalization of about $9.2 billion and an enterprise value of nearly $18 billion.
The company is in the midst of a rough patch thanks to regulatory changes around consumer data privacy and a struggling digital advertising market. Nielsen said in July it expected annual revenue to fall 1 percent, after forecasting growth of 3 percent, causing shares to fall 25 percent in one day. In August, hedge fund Elliott Management disclosed it had taken an 8.4 percent stake in the company.
High-dollar private equity deals, which dominated the mid-2000s, have largely disappeared since the financial crisis of 2008. A deal for Nielsen could be an indication that leveraged buyouts, which have gained consistent momentum in aggregate dollar value since 2009, could become another credible way for larger companies to exit the public market. Buyout deal volume this year is already at its highest level since 2007, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.