Red Sheriff sold to NetRatings

It's business as usual for Red Sheriff in New Zealand despite the company being bought by rival ratings firm NetRatings.

It's business as usual for Red Sheriff in New Zealand despite the company being bought by rival ratings firm NetRatings.

New Zealand managing director Mark Ottoway is in Sydney discussing the impact of the purchase on local operations but he says this isn't a case of a company being bought to be shut down.

"They want Red Sheriff's technology, our client base and our expertise. This isn't a lay-off operation [in New Zealand]."

Red Sheriff monitors online usage levels by placing a small amount of code on a member's website. Visitors to the site are tracked for a variety of parameters including length of stay, what parts of the site are visited and so on.

Red Sheriff won the tender for the online publishers group in July 2002 to provide statistics across the group's online publications. Red Sheriff has built on that user base and now numbers around 250 clients in New Zealand and has been touting the service around the world in competition with NetRatings' sister company AC Nielsen in many instances.

Ottoway says he has been in contact with customers about the sale to assure them it's "business as usual".

"It may affect branding and things like that but in terms of what we're committed to deliver and methodology in New Zealand it's still very much go. We've got contracts which we will need to fulfil and we have every intention of doing that."

NetRatings is owned by investment firm VNU, which also owns AC Nielsen and there is a close relationship between the two in many countries, with the two firms often sharing office space. While AC Nielsen still maintains a presence in New Zealand, NetRatings pulled out in 2001 retrenching to Australia. Red Sheriff, however, is in expansion mode and while it has an Auckland office with four full-time staff, Ottoway hopes to increase that number in the near future.

"It's never going to need a large organisation in New Zealand but we do have a large number of customers to deal with so we are growing in that respect.

The deal comprises of $US12 million in cash for a 58% stake in Red Sheriff with the expectation that the remaining stock will be bought by NetRatings by the end of January.

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