Bollore Group has effectively controlled Havas since CEO Vincent Bollore staged a boardroom coup of the French ad holding company in 2005. Now Bollore Group, which has owned a little more than a third (36.2%) of Havas since that time, has made a tender offer to buy majority ownership of the company.
Bollore has proposed a stock offering through two of its subsidiaries that would swap nine shares of Bollore stock for five shares of Havas. The offer would occur simultaneously with a split of Bollore shares. The company said the implied premium over the current value of Havas shares would be 19.5%.
Bollore said in a release that the intent was to increase its ownership to more than 50% while a minority portion of Havas would continue to be publicly traded.
In a statement, Vincent Bollore -- whose son Yannick is now CEO of Havas -- said: “The public exchange offer fits into the continuity of Bollore’s long-term investment in Havas [and] highlights the confidence of Bollore in Havas’ strategy as an independent group among the world leading communication players.”
Bollore Group said that the transaction “gives the opportunity to Havas’ shareholders, who wish to do so, to exchange their shares for those of a well-diversified group with strong international exposure, while at the same receiving an attractive premium.”
The move comes amid much speculation about further consolidation in Adland. Earlier this year when the proposed merger of Omnicom and Publicis collapsed, Pivotal Research Analyst Brian Wieser issued a commentary in which he posited that Havas was more likely a buyer than a seller in the consolidation game and that under the right circumstances the firm might make a play for Interpublic Group. “IPG is the optimal candidate among the bigger holding companies if Havas can gain access to capital,” Wieser wrote at the time.
During Advertising Week in New York earlier this month, Yannick Bollore touched on the consolidation issue, asserting that size does not guarantee success.
“I do not believe the biggest companies will win the race,” he said. Rather, he suggested, innovative, nimble companies with an entrepreneurial spirit are likely to be winners. That spirit “is in our DNA -- we’ve been doing it for two centuries,” he said, referring to the Bollore Group. That said, he declined to talk specifically about acquisition rumors involving the company.
Havas issued a statement Friday confirming the Bollore offer, saying that it had appointed outside firm Sorgem Evaluation to review the offering and prepare a report for the Havas board of directors. Havas described the offer as “friendly,” and said the board would offer an opinion to shareholders about the offer sometime after they receive the Sorgem report.
Yannick Bollore said that the tender offer from Bollore “underlines its will to pursue its long-term commitment to Havas.”