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Publicis, WPP looking to acquire Aegis

MUMBAI: Marketing and communications services firm Publicis Groupe has in a statement confirmed that it is holding preliminary talks to acquire the London based marketing services firm Aegis Group.

Aegis' research services are considered important at a time when consumers' changing viewing habits on television are forcing planners and buyers to re-evaluate their strategies to an extent.

One factor for Publicis is the role of Japanese agency Dentsu which owns a 15 per cent stake in Publicis. Dentsu had in the past been keen to acquire Aegis. Dentsu obtained the 15 per cent stake when it helped Publicis acquire Bcom3 several years ago.

At the same time media reports indicate that the WPP Group is in talks with French financier and Havas chairman Vincent Bolloré to make a joint bid along with San Francisco-based investment group Hellman & Friedman for Aegis Group. Aegis is believed to be worth around $2.82 billion. The deal will mean further consolidation in the media sector. Aegis owns the media agency Carat among other entities.

Bolloré is already the largest Aegis shareholder with a nearly 25 per cent stake. Any deal to acquire Aegis by a third party other than Bolloré would require his nod because the one-quarter interest gives him the right to veto a sale of the company under British takeover laws.

 

 

In a statement Aegis said that it had received an approach at an indicative level of 140 pence per Aegis share. "However, the approach is preliminary in nature and there can be no certainty that an offer will be made." WPP is said to have a deadline of 25 November 2005 to make a formal bid.

 

Should a deal go through the ramifications are major. If Publicis acquires Aegis it would control 36 per cent of the global media buying market. Recma data meanwhile shows that while WPP's combined media services units - MindShare, Mediaedge:cia, and MediaCom - make it the biggest holding company, Omnicom's OMD unit is now the biggest planner and buyer of media in the world with a 9.5 per cent share of the total marketplace. Publicis' Starcom MediaVest Group (SMG) ranks second with a 9.1 per cent share, followed by WPP's MindShare with an 8.8 per cent share.

Aegis' Carat ranks fourth with an 8.1 per cent share, followed by WPP's Mediaedge:cia with a seven per cent share, and Publicis' ZenithOptimedia Group with a 6.9 per cent share. ZenithOptimedia had the greatest growth in 2005 with estimated billings rising 15.7 per cent over 2004, while Omnicom's PHD unit saw billings fall by 3.5 per cent from 2004.

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