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A consortium including some of the world’s biggest private equity groups made a non-binding offer for VNU on Monday, valuing the troubled Dutch business information company at up to €7.3bn ($8.8bn).

The €28 to €28.50 a share bid from a group comprising Blackstone, Carlyle, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Permira, Hellman & Friedman, Alpinvest and Thomas H. Lee, is pitched close to VNU’s share price. Analysts said it might not impress some investors.

Knight Vinke Asset Management, which controls about 2 per cent of VNU, said it was conducting its own valuation of the company and indicated it would deliver its findings to VNU’s board and discuss them with other leading shareholders within days.

“It is KVAM’s view that shareholders require a better understanding as to what the company’s individual businesses are truly capable of earning, prior to reaching a conclusion as to what separate divisions might be worth,” it said in a statement. KVAM added that it would make an announcement next week.

Analysts had expected bids of up to €32 a share. VNU shares fell nearly 1 per cent to €27.90.

Bear Stearns said in a note to investors that it did not believe the bid “offers a significant premium to gain backing from VNU’s shareholder base”.

Analysts also noted that shareholders who accepted the bid would miss out on a €1bn share buy-back and special dividend.

In November VNU was forced by activist investors, including KVAM, Templeton and Fidelity, to abandon the $7bn acquisition of IMS Health, a US market research company. VNU subsequently announced the resignation of Rob van den Bergh, chief executive.

The development prompted more than one financial consortium to examine the company. But VNU said having “gauged the level of interest of certain other parties it is not proceeding with discussions with any other party”.

The consortium has spent several weeks studying VNU’s books and talking to management. A person close to the matter said: “This is the serious party and that is why the talks are exclusive.”

A sale of VNU may prompt trade buyers to express interest in parts of the business. VNU comprises AC Nielsen, the market researcher, Nielsen Media Research, which monitors television ratings, and a smaller trade show and magazine division publishing titles including Hollywood Reporter and Billboard.

VNU said it expected to provide more information within three to four weeks. The company said that it “continues to weigh alternatives and fully and fairly evaluate what course of action will serve the best interests of VNU stakeholders”.

Petercam, the Dutch brokerage, said the prospect of a counter offer was “limited”.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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