Paper: Aegis, Havas In Media Buying Talks

U.K.-based Aegis Group and French agency holding company Havas reportedly are in talks about forming a joint venture that would combine their media services operations, making an even bigger global media buying shop that would compete with giants like Omnicom, WPP and Publicis. Citing unnamed sources, British newspaper the Daily Telegraph Tuesday morning reported that the talks, which would combine Aegis' Carat and Vizeum media buying networks with Havas' Media Planning Group, predate Vincent Bollore's recent acquisition in Aegis earlier this month.

In fact, the paper said the joint venture talks have been stalled by Bollore's surprise move. Following a similar pattern that led to his takeover of Havas a year ago, Bollore has acquired a 6 percent stake in Aegis, at a time when many investors thought it was trading below market value. Aegis stock has since rallied, and some observers believe it is the first stage of a creeping takeover of the British media giant. Aegis, ironically, was formed when French media buying shop Carat was ousted following some illicit media buying practices in that nation.



The paper said European market analysts have given thumbs up to a merger of Aegis Carat and Vizeum networks with Havas' MPG, which would combine Aegis strength in the U.K. and France with MPG's presence in the U.S. and Germany.

Such an alliance would recast to former colleagues in the U.S. media buying marketplace: David Verklin, CEO of Carat Americas, and Charlie Rutman, who left as Verklin's No. 2 earlier this year to become head of MPG's U.S. operations.

However, analysts speaking to The Telegraph, called an actual merger of Aegis and Havas "problematic," noting that Aegis derives two-thirds of its revenue from media buying, while creative services oriented Havas yields only 18 percent from media.

This is not the first time rumors have circulated that Havas was seeking a joint venture partner to expand its media buying prowess. Last year, the company was rumored to be in talks with French compatriot Publicis about forming a global media buying alliance that never manifested.

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