Aegis on the block; Indian industry bets on Havas

MUMBAI: In a sudden turn of events, the British media and marketing specialist - the Aegis group - declared that it has received an offer from an unnamed suitor to be acquired for a sum of $2.8 billion.

In the international press, most of the speculation was that the offer could be from the French-based agencies Havas or Publicis, or from US-based Omnicom.


Both France's Les Echos newspaper and the UK's The Guardian have reported that it is French advertising giant Publicis that was as the bidder behind the takeover attempt of Aegis, the the owner of Carat, Europe's biggest media buying and planning agency.

The Indian advertising fraternity however, has a different take on the matter. The consensus among the professionals spoke to was that the $ 2.8 billion bid has either been made by Havas or by "dark horse" Martin Sorrel's WPP Group.

Both Omnicom and Publicis were discounted by the Indian ad frat.

Havas was pointed out to be a major contender as the industry opined that the agency was currently fighting for survival due to lack of scale and the acquisition of the Aegis Group would provide them just that. Also, one of them stated in confidence saying, "Havas is most definitely in the game."



WPP was also stated as a strong dark horse considering Sorell's current aggressive acquisition mode. But when queried on WPP's financials being overextended by its recent acquisition of Grey Worldwide, it was pointed out that usually even if an acquisition is overpriced, once the agency grows the cost evens out. The problem generally occurs when there is an overall economic downturn, which is not the case at present, was the argument.

What was interesting was that Publicis was ruled out as the top honchos felt that considering that in the media game, it is already very large, the focus for the agency would be to fill the gaps in markets where it had no presence and on its specialised units.



Why not Omnicom? The common refrain offered was that the agency has never believed in taking the acquisition route for growth. And if one were to go by past precedent, unless there was a strategic compulsion, the agency has never gone about buying out any unit that has been available. Also, Omnicom is perceived as an agency with conservative thought processes and hence buying the Aegis Group does not seem a road it would take.

That there will be many a twist and turn in the tale can be expected from the statement put out today by Aegis, which said, "The approach is preliminary in nature and there can be no certainty that an offer will be made."

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