Publicis Groupe and Omnicom cleared another major regulatory hurdle to their planned merger -- the companies have received approval from the European Commission.
The companies said the EC approval was unconditional, following its review of the deal, which began after the firms gave formal notification on Nov. 25.
The green light from the EC follows clearances from several other countries where the firms do business, including the U.S., Australia, Canada, Colombia, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa.
Still needed is a formal go-ahead from China, as well as sign-off from certain securities regulators in the U.S. and Europe. Shareholders of both companies also have to vote in favor of the deal.
The proposed merger, announced in July, is also the subject of a class-action lawsuit by a number of Omnicom shareholders who filed suit in New York, arguing that they are not being compensated adequately.
Several lawsuits have been consolidated into one case and the New York State Supreme Court has ruled that an amended consolidated complaint can be filed three weeks after Omnicom and Publicis file a preliminary proxy with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Publicis and Omnicom said today 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 merger.