Investment: Taylor Nelson quashes fears on merger

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The Independent Online
TAYLOR NELSON SOFRES, the market research group, yesterday quashed market fears that its year-old merger had run into trouble, with a confident trading statement.

Shares in Taylor Nelson jumped 4.5p to 98.5p as Tony Cowling, Taylor's chairman, said the integration with Sofres, the French network which was Taylor's merger partner in December 1997, was going well.

He added that, despite a slowdown in some markets as a result of declining economic growth, results were still in line with market expectations.

He was speaking as Taylor appointed David Lowden, the former finance director of Asprey & Garrard, the jewellers controlled by Prince Jefri of Brunei, as its new finance director.

Mr Lowden, 41, is also a former executive of AC Neilsen, the US market research giant which is one of Taylor's principal competitors.

Yesterday's statement helped Taylor's rehabilitation in the stock market, where its shares have suffered over fears that the worldwide economic slowdown would hurt demand for its businesses. Last month, the shares touched a low of 67.75p, compared with a 12-month high of 144.5p.

Taylor now pursues the mundane business of television audience research and conducting consumer panels in 30 countries around the world - it recently expanded into South Korea and Thailand.

The group believes that market research is becoming a global industry as multinational companies increasingly award all their business to a single supplier.

At the same time, Taylor is in the process of abandoning its national structure in favour of global units specialising in the automotive and telecommunications industry.

Analysts said they supported Taylor's strategy but were concerned that it remains vulnerable to a slowing economy - two-thirds of its revenues come from one-off projects. "At about 100p we rate the shares a hold," one broker said yesterday.