Elliott Unleashes a Record Nielsen Rally by Urging Sale

(Bloomberg) -- Billionaire Paul Singer’s hedge fund acquired a stake in Nielsen Holdings Plc and urged a sale of the consumer-data giant, triggering the biggest stock rally since it first went public.

Singer’s firm, Elliott Management Corp., bought stocks and options totaling 8.4 percent, according to a regulatory filing Monday. The investor said it will “encourage the issuer to undertake a full strategic review of, and initiate a process to explore, the sale.”

Elliott built up its position on July 26, the day Nielsen announced a bevy of bad news that plunged the company into upheaval and wiped out $2.7 billion -- more than a quarter, of its market value. The New York-based company cut its profit forecasts for the year and said its chief executive officer will retire. It also announced it was mulling options for its Buy segment, which tracks consumer purchases (its Watch unit focuses on its better-known practice of monitoring TV, radio and internet habits).

Nielsen also has about $8.5 billion in debt, making a turnaround plan more challenging.

Finding Buyer

“Elliott Management knows their way around the media business,” said Douglas Arthur, a managing director at Huber Research Partners LLC. “What’s important now is for them to figure out who’ll be the buyer and what’s going to happen to all that debt.”

On Monday, Nielsen shares surged as much as 17 percent to $25.67, the biggest intraday gain since the company’s 2011 initial public offering. The stock had tumbled 40 percent this year through Friday.

Elliott, which has about $35 billion in assets under management and invests across strategies, has been one of the busiest activist investors of the past year, targeting companies around the globe.

In May, Elliott scored a major victory at Hyundai Motor Group, when it managed to halt a restructuring plan at the South Korean carmaker. That same month, it also wrested control of the Telecom Italia SpA board from Vivendi SA through a proxy fight.

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