ACNielsen Wins Decision, Lifting Potential Barrier For VNU
The case, which stems from a period when the Nielsen unit was controlled by Dun & Bradstreet Corp., was based on IRI's claims that ACNielsen used anticompetitive pricing tactics to undercut IRI's business in the marketing research field, and has been hanging as a potential liability over VNU.
VNU noted that the court dismissed the claims "with prejudice," and Chairman-CEO Ron van den Bergh countered that IRI's move was itself designed to "chill competition."
IRI has already indicated plans to appeal the decision in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, but van den Bergh said VNU remained "confident of our position on any appeal."
"Competition belongs in the marketplace, and not in the courts," he stated.
The decision comes at a time when VNU has freed itself of debt and is in a strong cash position following the sale of its European directories business. The company has indicated it is prepared to spend more than $1 billion on new acquisitions.
The legal decision is especially significant given VNU's plan to develop a new single-source media and marketing research system with Arbitron, Project Apollo, that could further undermine IRI's position in the marketing research field. IRI, ironically, had been collaborating on a similar system with Arbitron before it formed an agreement with VNU. Earlier this week, Arbitron indicated the companies were putting the "finishing touches" on a five-month pilot test of Apollo, which is being backed by packaged goods marketing giant Procter & Gamble.
IRI's shares closed the day of trading on Thursday at $1.01, down from their 52-week high of $3.55.