February 11, 2017 / 2:27 PM / in 2 years

KKR succeeds with Gfk stake purchase, clears way for turnaround

FRANKFURT/BERLIN (Reuters) - Private equity firm KKR (KKR.N) has acquired a 18.54 percent stake in German market researcher GfK GFKG.DE, GfK said, allowing it to drive strategic change with top shareholder GfK Verein.

Shareholders in GfK, best known for its consumer confidence indices, have tendered their holdings to KKR by a Friday midnight deadline, a spokeswoman said on Saturday. Together, KKR and GfK Verein now control at least 75 percent of the company.

On Friday, shareholders had only tendered 14.5 percent of stock in GfK, still short of the minimum threshold of 18.54 percent.

New York-based KKR, known for successfully turning around media companies, has said it sees opportunities to transform GfK into a technology-based market research leader.

Its 43.50 euros a share offer for GfK was contingent upon reaching a 18.54 percent threshold. Shareholders in GfK who have not yet taken the offer will continue to be able to sell stock at the same price between Feb. 16 and March 1.

“We now have strong partners at our side to implement our growth strategy quickly and consistently,” company executive Gerhard Hausruckinger said in an emailed statement, adding the players will make GfK “fit for the future.”

Adjusted operating profit plunged almost a fifth last year at Nuremberg-based GfK which has struggled to keep up with digital competition.

U.S. businessman Michael Dell, founder of Dell Technologies DVMT.N, has also been building a stake in GfK. Dell’s MSD Capital fund manages more than $12 billion in assets, the company says on its website, which lists merger arbitrage as one of its investment strategies.

Reporting by Alexander Huebner and Andreas Cremer; Editing by Clelia Oziel

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