The Nielsen Company Sees Murky Year for Exhibitions

HIL ANDERSON, SENIOR EDITOR
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New York, NY – The Nielsen Company reported a 4.5% increase in revenue for 2008 but predicted a tough year ahead for its trade show operations and its overall business.

The company said its business media operations were supported in large part by a robust first half for its trade show business, although exhibitions flagged in the second half and were likely to remain soft for the foreseeable future.

“The U.S. market feels rough,” Chief Financial Officer Brian West said on a March 27 conference call with analysts. “Globally, the trend seems to be that they (trade shows) are holding up fairly well, but the question is will they be impacted by what is going on in the U.S.?”

The performance of specific shows, West said, depended in large part on the industry sector they served. The company managed nine events in Trade Show Executive’s Gold 100 roster of the largest trade shows held in 2007, mainly serving the retail sector. Nielsen’s largest show, the ASD/AMD Trade Show Las Vegas is held twice annually and placed No. 17 and No. 18 in the Gold 100 rankings.

West said Nielsen had no plans to greatly alter its trade show strategy and hoped to have its events positioned to come out of the gate quickly once the economic recovery begins. “You have to stick with it,” West said. “When they come out of a downturn, they generally come out with very good growth rates.”

West said trade shows had been able to offset a decline in Nielsen’s print revenues, although exhibition revenues “went sharply negative” in the second half. “We can‘t tell if we are at the bottom yet,” West said. “Our clients are feeling all of this and it will impact us.”

West said Nielsen had planned accordingly and entered into 2009 on the assumption that the economic malaise would continue for the near-term.

Nielsen reported slightly more than $5 billion in revenues for 2008, up 4.5% from 2007, excluding currency fluctuations. With currencies factored in, the revenues were up 6% over 2007.

Operating income was $118 million compared to $416 million for 2007. Covenant EBITDA earnings for 2008 were $1.34 billion.

Reach Greg Farrar, president of Nielsen Business Media, at (703) 488-2800 or greg.farrar@nielsen.com