Publicis Groupe denies it approached Interpublic – so does this mean a deal wasn’t on?

It’s as well to read to small print in these things.

On Sunday Pubicis Groupe released the following (rather lumpy) statement concerning rumours of an imminent deal to buy US giant Interpublic.:

“Following the speculations published by Alphaville and their resulting widespread publicity, Publicis Groupe denies having engaged in any discussions with Interpublic Group and confirms that it has not commissioned any bank to undertake any such discussions.”

So PG isn’t interested in a $6bn bid for Interpublic (owner of McCann, DraftFCB, Deutsch and much else)? Not necessarily, it just says it hasn’t approached IPG directly. A $6bn bid at $15 a share (a 40 per cent premium to IPG’s share price before the story emerged) wouldn’t have to be agreed. Some IPG shareholders would have bitten PG’s hands off.

Back on Friday, when rumours of a bid first began to emerge on Wall Street, IPG, under pressure from the authorities to comment, said merely: “We are aware of the activity in our stock today. It is our policy not to comment on market rumors or speculation.”

So hardly a ringing endorsement of everlasting indepependence, from PG or anyone else.

And why did it take PG two whole days to produce its own announcement when IPG’s stock was surging through the roof?

Well maybe that was why. Maybe it began to look as though $15 a share might not be enough.

Maybe someone at PG (biggest shareholder Elizabeth Badinter, left, daughter of the founder?) began to think IPG was not just a lot of money but, with its two biggest agency networks McCann and Draft struggling, indigestible too.

Or maybe someone at PG received a phone call from Procter & Gamble’s Bob McDonald saying: “Over my dead body (IPG handles swathes of Unilever business).

Maybe we’ll never know. I expect we will though.

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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.