Arbitron shares are up 25% in pre-market trading after Nielsen Holdings said it would buy the rival ratings company best known for its measurement of radio audiences. Nielsen said it will pay $48 a share, a 26% premium over yesterday’s closing price, for a total of $1.26B. “Arbitron will help Nielsen better solve for unmeasured areas of media consumption, including streaming audio and out-of-home,” Nielsen CEO David Calhoun says. “The high level of engagement with radio and TV among rapidly growing multicultural audiences makes this central to Nielsen’s priorities.” His company also says it will expand Arbitron’s “Watch” segment’s audience measurement across screens and forms of listening. “These integrated, innovative capabilities will enable broader measurement of consumer media behavior in more markets around the world,” Nielsen President of Global Media Products and Advertiser Solutions Steve Hasker says.

The timing of the announcement is surprising: Last week, Arbitron said that Sean Creamer would become CEO on January 1 when the current chief, William Kerr, retires. Arbitron shares have appreciated 7.4% over the last 12 months.

Here’s today’s release:

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NEW YORK– Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN), a leading global provider of information and insights into what consumers watch and buy, today announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Arbitron Inc. (NYSE: ARB), an international media and marketing research firm.

Nielsen has agreed to acquire all of the outstanding common stock of Arbitron for $48 per share in cash, representing a premium of approximately 26 percent to Arbitron’s closing price on December 17, 2012. Nielsen has a financing commitment for the total transaction amount. The transaction has been approved by the boards of both companies and is subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory review.

“U.S. consumers spend almost 2 hours a day with radio. It is and will continue to be a vibrant and important advertising medium,” said Nielsen Chief Executive Officer David Calhoun. “Arbitron will help Nielsen better solve for unmeasured areas of media consumption, including streaming audio and out-of-home. The high level of engagement with radio and TV among rapidly growing multicultural audiences makes this central to Nielsen’s priorities.”

With Arbitron assets, Nielsen intends to further expand its “Watch” segment’s audience measurement across screens and forms of listening. “These integrated, innovative capabilities will enable broader measurement of consumer media behavior in more markets around the world,” said Steve Hasker, Nielsen President of Global Media Products and Advertiser Solutions. “We will also bring local clients greater visibility to empower more precise advertising placement and campaign effectiveness.”

“Radio reaches more than 92 percent of all American teens and adults because they love to listen to music, talk, news and information while at home, at work and in their cars,” said William T. Kerr, President and Chief Executive Officer of Arbitron. “By combining Nielsen’s global capabilities and scale with Arbitron’s unique radio measurement and listening information, advertisers and media clients will have better insights into consumer behavior and the return on marketing investments.”

Together, Nielsen and Arbitron generated total revenues of $6.0 billion and combined pro forma adjusted EBITDA of $1.7 billion based on the 12 months ended September 30, 2012. The combined assets will support Nielsen’s strong cash flow characteristics and will enable continued investment in growth initiatives. Excluding estimated transaction costs and purchase accounting adjustments, the acquisition is expected to be approximately $0.13 accretive to adjusted EPS 12 months after the close and approximately $0.19 accretive to adjusted EPS 24 months after the close. Cost synergies associated with the acquisition are expected to be at least $20 million and will be largely driven by the integration of technology platforms and data acquisition efforts.