TNS and GfK merger hit by EU competition issues

The Taylor Nelson Sofres merger with Nuremberg-based research company GfK has hit a fresh snag after respected independent study group Enders Analysis said it raised serious European Union competition issues in the area of television audience measurement (MW May 1).

Sources close to TNS deny there is a material problem.

“If unhindered by remedy solutions imposed by the [European] Commission, TNS-GfK will control about 50% of the TV audience measurement segment in Europe, the rest being supplied by AGB Nielsen,” says the report. “Because the Commission is likely to insist on three suppliers remaining in the TAM market, we anticipate TNS-GfK could offer to divest GfK’s European activity, although this will depress the margin improvements from synergies.”

It notes that WPP “also appears to be interested in acquiring TNS”. WPP owns a half-share of AGBNielsen, but Enders concludes: “The market share of the combined company in Europe is probably not high enough to warrant intervention.”

Separately, there has been growing opposition to the merger in Germany. Politicians are concerned it would lead to serious job losses in Bavaria at a time when other companies, such as Nokia and Siemens, are downsizing their local work force.

The situation is complicated by the fact that GfK is 57% owned by GfK-Verein, a charity on whose board sit influential representatives of the Bavarian state and the city of Nuremberg (pictured). Both parties are reported to be voting “against the merger as things stand”, according to mainstream German media.

GfK-Verein has put back its vote on whether to accept the merger from July 4 to July 21. The new date would fall after the general meeting of TNS shareholders on July 18, which will determine their own attitude to the merger.

A WPP source says: “The GfK merger is a shambles. 24 hours after TNS and GfK publish a 400-page [prospectus] document, they change their timetable.”

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here