Levy Says China Approval For POG Merger Is Close

Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Levy said Friday that the company and its proposed merger partner Omnicom Group have just one more country to obtain regulatory approval from—China. He expects to get the nation’s blessing for the deal shortly after the conclusion of Chinese New Year festivities. This year, the celebration begins Jan. 31 and will last about two weeks.

Levy spoke to Bloomberg Television in Davos, site of the ongoing World Economic Forum. It was a year ago at Davos that Levy and Omnicom CEO John Wren first discussed the possibility of merging their two holding companies. Seven months later, in July of last year, they announced they had a deal.

“We are waiting only on China,” Levy told Bloomberg TV. While the Chinese New Year festivities will delay the decision slightly, “there are no major hurdles or issues,” Levy said.

Levy’s China comments came about two weeks after the merger was given an OK by the European Commission, the European Union regulatory body. Earlier, the U.S. and other countries gave the merger a green light.

In addition to China, the companies need approval from their respective shareholders and certain securities regulators in the U.S. and Europe.

The proposed merger is also the subject of a class-action lawsuit filed by Omnicom shareholders in New York State Supreme Court. An amended complaint in that case will be filed three weeks after Omnicom files a preliminary proxy with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Two weeks ago, the merger partners said that the proxy and a prospectus would be filed as part of an S-4 stock registration with the SEC, but gave no indication when it would be filed.

When the merger was first disclosed, Omnicom and Publicis said they expected to close the deal by the fourth quarter of 2013 or in the first quarter of 2014. More recently, the companies have said it could take until mid-year to complete the deal. 

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