The $7 billion union between Dutch business information group, VNU, and US firm IMS Health will not make it down the aisle after the deal collapsed and VNU’s chief executive Rob van den Bergh stepped down in the face of a shareholder revolt.

The news comes as little surprise as shareholders have raised fierce objections to the deal, which was first announced in July. A group of rebel shareholders holding around 48% of VNU held talks with the Dutch company to insist that the offer for IMS was too high and, at the end of October, it was revealed that the two firms were in negotiations over “various possible alternatives, including a revised merger agreement as well as termination of the agreement.”

VNU now says: "The two companies decided to call off their merger after shareholders claiming to represent nearly 50% of VNU’s outstanding shares said they would not support the transaction under any circumstances."

Then Dutch firm has agreed to reimburse IMS $15 million related to merger planning, and has put $45 million on the table should VNU itself be acquired in the next year. In return, IMS has agreed to return the $15 million should it be bought over the coming 12 months.