Down Under: Havas Buys Controlling Interest In Host

David-Jones

Paris-based agency holding company Havas took another step this week to boost its Asia Pacific presence with the purchase of a controlling stake in Host, Australia's largest independent ad agency. 

Havas and other holding companies, such as Publicis and WPP, are moving rapidly to expand their holdings in the Asia-Pacific region, which has one of the faster-growing ad economies in the world, according to recent forecasts. ZenithOptimedia predicted earlier this month that the region's ad expenditures would grow 6% to $123 billion this year, and grow another 8% in 2012 to $133 billion.

Havas has several other agencies established in the country, including media shop MPG, digital agency Media Contacts, creative agency Arnold Furnace and PR firm Red Agency. Among media shops, MPG is one of Australia's smallest by market share, with just 2.3% of billings in 2010, according RECMA. But Host has an impressive list of creative accounts, including Coca-Cola, Vodafone and Bankwest, whose media accounts are currently handled by MPG rivals -- accounts that Host, now controlled by Havas, could help bring in-house.

Havas CEO David Jones stated that Host is "a very strategic acquisition sitting at the intersection of creativity, digital and Asia-Pacific." He said that more than 30% of the agency's revenues were digital, which is in line with the holding companies' "digital at the core model."

Host, which will be integrated into the Havas Worldwide Network, was founded by Anthony Freedman in 2000. Freedman and his team will continue to manage the agency, which has a staff of 125.

"We have no interest in changing a thing with Host," stated Jones. "We simply believe that with our reach, client relationships and capital, we can help [the] agency and leadership team grow beyond Australia."

Havas has signed an agreement to purchase 51% of the agency. Other terms of the purchase were not disclosed.

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