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Havas may find that it’s become the takeover target, not long-time quarry Aegis

Many analysts still expect Havas, the French-based marcoms group controlled by Vincent Bollore and headed by CEO David Jones, to bid for media buyer Aegis now that Aegis has sold its research arm Synovate to Ipsos for £530m.

But Jones has just announced Havas’ half-year figures and it’s pretty obvious that his company, which owns agency networks Euro RSCG and Arnold and media buyer MPG, isn’t big enough to take over Aegis.

Havas turned over £677m in the first half compared to Aegis’ £519m (excluding Ipsos). Aegis is also growing much faster than Havas, with its media buying operations up nearly 18 per cent against Havas’ disappointing 5.6 per cent, representing a startling decline in the second quarter of the year.

Havas chairman and biggest shareholder Vincent Bollore with 32.9 per cent also owns 26.5 per cent of Aegis but the stake is owned via his Group Bollore industrial holding company not Havas. And he’s said publicly recently that he sees the stake as a financial investment rather than the platform for a Havas bid.

Both Havas and Aegis are minnows in comparison to WPP, whose revenues are nearly eight times bigger, Omnicom, Interpublic and Publicis Groupe.

Jones has said he has £750m to spend on acquisitions but also acknowledged that, with the valuations of potential digital targets going through the roof, he’s in no hurry to spend it. Recently Arnold in particular has concentrated on poaching individual talent rather than buying entire agencies.

Whichever way you look at it £2bn or more for Aegis looks well beyond Havas’ grasp, making Havas itself a more likely takeover victim than predator.

That, of course, depends on chairman Bollore (who stepped down as CEO in favour of Jones earlier this year). But Bollore will have noted that there is no virtually no chance of Havas ever catching up with his bigger rivals through organic growth and he may be tempted to cash in so he can concentrate on his other ventures, which include providing Paris with electric cars.

Havas has some good clients in its networks including Dell, Pfizer and Reckitt Benkiser, a strategy of turning the hitherto rather moribund Arnold into a digital-led agency and the clubbable Jones, described here as “the world’s top account man,” a description with which he enthusiastically agreed.

So a takeover or merger creating a marcoms company that really could look the likes of Interpublic and Publicis Groupe, if not yet WPP and Omnicom, in the eye and with Jones at the helm, would make sense.

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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.
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