Speculation about a merger between French-owned marketing groups Publicis and Havas has re-emerged following a French media report.
Havas pre-dates even the venerable Publicis although it’s now owned by Vivendi, controlled by French tycoon Vincent Bolloré (left.) Son Yannick runs Havas.
When Vivendi, which also owns Universal Music and Canal+, took control of Havas it seemed likely that it might move for the much larger Publicis at some stage. Havas on its own is not an especially significant part of the Vivendi empire. Publicis itself has always been acquisitive, buying a large number of creative and media agencies across the years and, ten years or so ago, exploring a merger with American rival Omnicom that would have eclipsed WPP in size.
The shares of all the big marketing groups were struggling even before the pandemic although WPP, which fell furthest, has recently recovered some ground. If anyone wants to buy one of them, now would be a good time.
Publicis is valued at €13bn ($15bn) so a deal would have to be pitched at nearer $20bn, still a sizeable sum. Would others be interested? Too big a bite for Sir Martin Sorrell’s S4 Capital surely although that’s now valued at a dizzying £2.7bn.
There may be nothing in this of course. Vivendi says the report is “unfounded,” which might mean anything. Wonder what the top Publicis duo of Maurice Levy and Arthur Sadoun make of it?