Renewed Takeover Rumors Send Aegis To New High, Publicis Denies Role

Aegis Group's stock rallied Monday to $2.89 per share, its highest price in more than a year, on renewed rumors that it was going into play, and that French agency holding companies Publicis and Havas might be aligning for a unified buy out of the London-based parent of Carat and highly coveted marketing research businesses.

Publicis, which recently agreed to acquire U.S. interactive agency giant Digitas for $1.3 billion, issued a statement denying the rumors as "unfounded." Although Publicis made a tepid, but rejected friendly offer to acquire Aegis more than a year ago, in November Chairman Maurice Levy said Publicis would not make another run at Aegis as long as Vincent Bollore, chairman of rival Havas, was a major shareholder.

Bollore controls a 29.12% stake in Aegis, just below a trigger that would force him to make a formal takeover bid.

Previous speculation has focused on WPP Group aligning with Havas for a takeover of Aegis. WPP is believed to be keen on acquiring Aegis' Synovate research operations, while Aegis' media networks - Carat, Vizeum, Isobar and Posterscope - would bolster Havas' media services operations, principally MPG.



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