NetRatings, Jupiter Call Off Merger

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(AP) Two of the Internet’s leading audience measurement services have called off a $71 million merger after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) indicated it would challenge the deal.

In a joint statement Tuesday, NetRatings Inc. and Jupiter Media Metrix Inc. announced the decision to halt the merger was mutual and that neither company would pay a breakup fee.

Jupiter Media Metrix officials said Tuesday its board of directors immediately would begin exploring ways to strengthen the company’s marketplace position. Shares of the New York-based company fell 62 cents to close at 19 cents on the Nasdaq stock market Tuesday.

FTC staff recently indicated they would recommend that the agency challenge both the merger and a related loan and security agreement, the companies said.

NetRatings had said acquiring Jupiter Media Metrix would nearly double its customer base. Shares of Milpitas-based company rose fell 4 cents to close at $14.11 on the Nasdaq.

NetRatings is majority-owned by Nielsen Media Research, which keeps similar tabs on the habits of television viewers.

One part of the original October agreement that is still pending, however, has NetRatings purchasing the 80.1% of ACNielsen eRatings.com that it does not own, for $16.4 million in stock. The deal could also be modified, said VNU in a prepared statement.

VNU has a 64% interest in NetRatings. ERatings is a joint venture, 80.1% owned by VNU subsidiary ACNielsen and 19.9% owned by NetRatings. (VNU is also the owner of Editor & Publisher.)

Both companies install monitoring software onto the computers of thousands of volunteers to collect data on Internet surfing habits. The data is used to determine advertising rates.

Jupiter Media Metrix’s Jupiter Research division also provides consulting and research services that analyzes technology and Internet issues.

Shares of Jupiter fell 62 cents, or more than 76 percent, to close at 19 cents on the Nasdaq Stock Market, where shares of NetRatings fell 4 cents to close at $14.11.

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