Why Havas would be a great deal for Omnicom

Poor David Jones (pictured), the charismatic and youthful CEO of Havas isn’t usually left as the wallflower on the sidelines of the ad business but that’s exactly where he is at the moment.

A Dentsu takeover of media buyer Aegis, long seen as a partner for Havas (Havas chairman Vincent Bollore was the biggest shareholder in both companies until last week) would leave Havas by far the smallest of the marcoms elite with a turnover of about £1.4bn compared to Dentsu/Aegis with £3.8bn and giants WPP on £10.2bn and Omnicom on £8.8bn. The others are Publicis Groupe on £4.9bn and Interpublic (once the biggest) on £4.4bn.

But, hang on a minute, don’t £8.8bn and £1.4bn add up to £10.2bn? Exactly WPP’s billing. If you were John Wren of Omnicom (left) might you not be inclined to pick up the phone to Bollore and ask him if he wants some more money to add to the £743m he stands to make from the sale of Aegis?

His 37 per cent stake in Havas is worth a further £400m or so without a bid premium and Bollore is currently busily buying shares in sprawling French media conglomerate Vivendi, which owns 80 per cent of Canal Plus.

Havas types are busy telling all and sundry that Bollore is more committed to Havas than ever, finding room for son Yannick on the board as a vice-chairman. But it’s hard to see quite where Havas goes from here unless Bollore gets his cheque book out and that’s unlikely given his focus on Vivendi and other interests like his Paris electric hire cars.

Omnicom is currently weighing whether or not to make a $600m (€489m) bid for digital agency LBi. Havas is valued at just three times that, €1.5bn, although it would cost rather more in a bid process.

At even four times Havas looks a rather better investment, especially as CEO Jones has been buying all the digital assets he can afford, which almost certainly makes Havas bigger in digital than LBi.

And Wren, who’s into his sixties like all his peers apart from Jones (if such he be), would have a ready-made CEO in waiting. Or a credible candidate anyway.

And, best of all, annoy his great enemy WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell no end.

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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.