Havas is doing OK says CEO David Jones as it wins Unilever’s data business

Havas increased its revenues by 11 per cent in the third quarter of this year to $546m but organic growth was down to the same disappointing levels of about two per cent reported by rivals WPP and Publicis Groupe; more evidence that the calamitous collapse of business confidence in the eurozone is hammering the big marcoms companies.

At the same time CEO David Jones (pictured) says that the company has been appointed to handle Unilever’s global data business (whatever that may be), which presumably testifies to the merits of his focus on digital.

Which leaves Havas more or less where it was. The company is big but not big enough to challenge the likes of WPP on the worldwide stage as owner Vincent Bollore seems to have decided that there are better places to put his money.

His strategy was always to merge Havas with big media buying group Aegis (where he was the biggest shareholder) but that plan was stymied by the £3.2bn sale of Carat owner Aegis to Dentsu earlier this year.

But Jones just has to get on with it, which he is. In Premier League terms he’s David Moyes of Everton as opposed to Fergie at Manchester United and Roberto Mancini at City (for now).

Havas is a desirable property with some good creative agency brands (Havas Worldwide, Arnold and BETC), a decent media operation in MPG (or Havas Media as it may now be) and all those digi bits and pieces. But it’s weak in the Far East, where WPP and Publicis Groupe are busy buying anything that moves.

But with a market capitalisation of just €1.8bn it would be an easy bite for a competitor (Omnicom most likely, if the ever-cautious John Wren was so minded) or a private equity outfit which could sell bits off to the marcoms mob.

Bollore and the French government, who take a keen interest in these things, might differ of course.

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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.