Private equity buyers Doughty Hanson and Cinven try to derail Ipsos deal for Synovate

It was bound to happen and it’s all rather reminiscent of WPP rowing into the (ultimately) abortive GfK deal to merge with TNS back in 2008.

French researcher Ipsos is in ‘exclusive’ talks with media buyer Aegis to buy its Synovate research business for around £500m.

But private equity firms Doughty Hanson (which owns UK cinema chain Vue Entertainment) and Cinven, which owns loads of businesses, are intent on spoiling the party with counter bids reported to be up to £600m.

Aegis originally knocked back the Doughty bid as it came via front company Wyvern Partners, Aegis saying it wanted to know whose money it was. Now it does know it’s hard to see how it can refuse to talk to the private equity outfit which demonstrated last year it had a few quid by paying £450m for Vue. The same considerations apply to Cinven.

And it’s also hard to see how Ipsos can compete with this kind of financial firepower.

So why have private equity firms suddenly decided they want to buy into research?

They probably haven’t but media companies are lowly-rated at the moment after the recession and the likes of Doughty Hanson and Cinven need to deals, otherwise investors won’t invest in their buyout funds.

So there’s a bit of a market reason and a bit of a practical reason. Essentially Synovate is one of the few deals around at the moment so there’s competition for it.

Lucky old Aegis (and lucky old 26.5 per cent Aegis shareholder Vincent Bollore of Havas).

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.