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EXCLUSIVE-Britain's Kantar nears $1.5 billion deal to buy Vista-backed Numerator, sources say

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LONDON, April 19 (Reuters) - British market research firm Kantar is in final talks to buy U.S. rival Numerator from Vista Equity Partners in a deal worth about $1.5 billion, two sources with knowledge of the discussions told Reuters.

The deal, expected to be announced imminently, will see Kantar taking full control of the U.S. firm which specialises in providing market intelligence and has been backed by buyout fund Vista since 2017, the sources said

Kantar declined to comment. Vista was not immediately available for comment.

Kantar, a former unit of media giant WPP, will use the deal to boost its global presence - particularly in the U.S. consumer panel section of the market - and better compete with rivals including Nielsen and Information Resources Inc (IRI) which share consumer panels as part of a joint venture deal in 2009.

Kantar has faced tough competition in recent years by new industry disruptors including Numerator and Dublin-based e-commerce performance analytics platform Profitero, an industry source said, and needs to grow overseas to remain one of the world’s top data analytics and brand consultancy groups.

London-based Kantar is well familiar with Numerator’s business model having previously backed InfoScout, a retail-focused market specialist which was sold to Vista-backed Market Track in 2017 and later re-branded Numerator.

Chicago-based Numerator will help Kantar gain access to a wider pool of consumers in the United States where it collects purchasing data from more than a million contributors.

Bain Capital bought about 60% of Kantar in 2019 in a deal that valued the business at about $4 billion while WPP retained a 40% stake.

Were WPP to want to maintain its 40% holding in Kantar it would need to contribute between $125 million and $150 million to the transaction, which it is expected to do, one of the sources said.

Kantar - led by boss Alexis Nasard who took the reins on Dec. 30 - recently pocketed $375 million from the sale of its global health division - headquartered in New York - to U.S. healthcare technology company Cerner in December.

Reporting by Pamela Barbaglia and Kate Holton; Additional reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Edmund Blair and Louise Heavens

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