IPG Shares Continue Run-Up, Volume Soars

Interpublic Group stock continued its feverish run-up today, reaching a high of $19.50 -- its highest price in years. By midafternoon, volume was about 60% higher than usual, with over 11 million shares traded.

The hectic trading in IPG’s stock comes amid speculation, first reported by CNBC, that hedge fund Elliott Management is buying up shares and placing a big bet that IPG may be acquired.

Elliott and IPG didn’t immediately respond to queries for comment. However, IPG CEO Michael Roth has consistently rejected the notion that the company needs greater scale to compete effectively with larger competitors in today’s marketplace.

IPG, owner of McCann, FCB, Initiative and other advertising and marketing firms, has been considered an acquisition candidate on and off for years, but the speculation has heightened with the recent collapse of the Publicis Omnicom merger.

However, according to Pivotal Research Group senior analyst Brian Wieser, nothing has really changed concerning IPG’s position as a potential takeover target. “The situation isn’t any different,” he said, except that with the collapse of POG “there is a wider range of possible outcomes.”

In a note issued after POG collapsed earlier this month, Wieser wrote: “The question is not whether or not there will be bids, but at what price IPG would sell, especially considering it should have a strong year on an operating basis.”

That said, Wieser added today that “even if you believe that it’s inevitable” that the company will be acquired, how a deal plays out and when and under what circumstances is hard to know. “These situations can linger,” he said. “It might be months or it could be years.” 

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