Real Media Riffs - Monday, Sep 26, 2005
And while looks like Aegis is earnestly in play, it appears the French may be into Aegis stock as much for the return on investment, as they are for the strategic purpose of acquiring the British media services and research holding company. Certainly, that seems to be the cases for Monsieur Bollore who has grown hundreds of millions richer in little more than a month thanks to his sizeable 6 percent investment in Aegis. Could it be that Publicis is seeking a similar return with its stake - a paltry one-tenth of Bollore's investment? At only 0.6 percent of Aegis' common stock, it sure doesn't seem like Monsieur Bollore is making a takeover play, at least not yet.
Maybe the Frenchmen know someone who plans to. And maybe it's not even one of the big agency holding companies that might seem like the obvious suspects. Maybe it's French market research firm Ipsos. Don't forget. Aegis is more than a media services play. Sure it's got some swell media shops - Carat and Isobar in particular - but it's also got some coveted marketing research companies like MMA and Copernicus that an acquisitive Ipsos might want to get its hands on, and then sell off the media buying business. That's one scenario making the rounds in the research community. Another is that British market researcher Talyor Nelson Sofres could step in with a bid. TNS, which operates TNS Media Intelligence - formerly known as CMR - has long coveted an expansion in the U.S. marketplace, and has already begun dabbling with a new TV ratings system in Hawaii that harnesses TV digital set-top data.
Our favorite scenario though isn't one anyone else has speculated on: That Dutch-based research conglomerate VNU would make a move. Sure VNU is already strapped with its pending acquisition of IMS Health, but it's probably big enough to gobble up Aegis too, especially since its possible the IMS deal won't even go through. The VNU scenario is irresistible because, VNU is a partner with WPP Group on TV ratings operations outside the U.S., and we can imagine the two swapping certain assets should VNU make the move. There's nothing WPP chief Martin Sorrell can't abide more than sitting on the sidelines while a juicy agency asset like Aegis goes into play. But WPP currently is heavily extended and likely could not muster a bid on its own. Partnered with VNU, well that's another story.