Nielsen to Sell Expositions Unit to Onex for $950 Million

Onex Corp., Canada’s biggest buyout firm, agreed to acquire Nielsen Holdings NV’s tradeshow unit for $950 million in cash.

Onex Partners III, Onex’ $4.7 billion private-equity fund, will put about $350 million of equity into the purchase, the Toronto-based company said today in a statement. The amount includes about $85 million from Onex as a limited partner in the fund.

Nielsen Expositions, based in San Juan Capistrano, California, produces more than 65 business-to-business tradeshows and conferences a year in markets including general merchandise, sports, hospitality and retail design. The company, with about 240 employees, had revenue of $183 million last year and adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of $97 million.

Onex’s “experience and successful track record in executing similar corporate carve-outs and building those divisions into industry-leading businesses position it as a strong partner,” David Loechner, president of Nielsen Expositions, said in today’s statement.

Nielsen Holdings, the biggest provider of U.S. television ratings, was working with Credit Suisse Group AG to sell the unit, people familiar with the process said in March. Onex expects the deal to close in the second quarter.

Nielsen Holdings rose 1.1 percent to $36.03 by 10:02 a.m. in New York, bringing gains this year to 18 percent.

2006 Buyout

Nielsen Holdings is controlled by a group of private-equity firms that includes Blackstone Group LP, KKR & Co., Thomas H. Lee Partners LP, Carlyle Group LP, Hellman & Friedman LLC and AlpInvest Partners NV. The buyout group, which acquired Nielsen for 8.9 billion euros ($11.7 billion) in 2006, owns 53 percent of the company’s stock, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The firms took Nielsen public in 2011, raising $1.89 billion in what was the biggest private equity-backed IPO at the time. Nielsen’s shares have gained 55 percent since then.

“Divesting the expositions business allows us to focus on these core areas that provide our clients with a comprehensive understanding of consumers,” Brian West, Nielsen’s chief financial officer, said in today’s statement.

Onex, which has offices in Toronto, New York and London, has $15 billion of assets under management in private equity, credit and real estate. The firm’s flagship buyout funds have returned between 1 times and 2.8 times invested capital with net internal rates of return between 4 percent and 39 percent, according to its website.

Onex was advised by Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson LLP in today’s deal, according to an e-mail from the New York law firm.

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