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The Associated Press January 26, 2011, 8:46AM ET

Nielsen prices IPO at $23 apiece, above range

TV ratings and consumer research company Nielsen Holdings B.V. said Wednesday that shares of its initial public offering priced at a higher-than-expected $23 apiece.

Nielsen's is the biggest IPO since General Motors Co.'s public rebirth, which raised a total of $23.1 billion at the end of last year.

The offering includes 71.4 million shares. Previously, the company said it expected shares to cost between $20 and $22 apiece. Some analysts predicted investors would shy away from the company's $8.6 billion debt, and that Nielsen would lower the price of its shares to accommodate lukewarm demand.

The company said Wednesday it expects to raise $1.56 billion in net proceeds, money it will use to pay down that debt. That's less than the $1.64 billion the company previously said it expected to receive. For their part, the private equity firms that invested in Nielsen will receive a $7 million dividend before the IPO closes, according to a regulatory filing.

Much of the company's debt dates back to 2006, when a group of private equity investors formed a holding company and purchased Nielsen for $9.7 billion. The company was formed in 1923 and named after its founder, Arthur C. Nielsen.

Although the company is best known for its rankings of the most watched television shows, 96 percent of its revenue in 2009 came from advising corporate clients such as The Coca-Cola Co. and The Proctor & Gamble Co. about what consumers are watching on TV and buying in stores.

The company, which is incorporated in The Netherlands but headquartered in New York, has also expanded internationally, and now operates in more than 100 countries, including some emerging markets -- an attractive target for marketers. Developing countries accounted for 17 percent of the company's revenue in 2009.

Last week, the company reported its preliminary 2010 results, saying it expects revenue between $5.11 billion and $5.13 billion, a rise of 6.3 percent to 6.7 percent over the company's 2009 revenue, which totaled $4.81 billion.

The underwriters, led by J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley, will have a 30-day option to buy up to $37.5 million in convertible debt to cover excess demand.

On Wednesday, Nielsen will also open its offering of $250 million in convertible bonds, which carry a 6.25 percent interest rate. Investors will be able to redeem $50 for every $1.8 million to $2.1 million in debt they hold. Nielsen said it will finalize that amount after it assesses the debt's market value.

Nielsen Holdings is expecting to begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday under the ticker symbol "NSLN."

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