EC taking measure of WPP merger

Ad giant would need to sell audience measurement services

BRUSSELS -- Global advertising giant WPP Group must sell its Television Audience Measurement services unit if it wants to go through with a planned $2.2 billlion takeover of market research company Taylor Nelson Sofres, the European Commission said Tuesday.

Both WPP -- the world's No. 2 ad agency -- and TNS are "globally active in the information and communications services sectors," the commission said, making any merger between the two London-based groups an antitrust concern in the European market.

EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said that WPP's commitments would ensure "customers will not suffer as a result of this merger in terms of reduced choice or higher prices as regards both TV audience measurement."

WPP posted its offer document to TNS shareholders at the start of August, but the bid went hostile after the TNS board rejected four friendly approaches.