M&C takeover hits the (rather predictable) buffers

M&C Saatchi is out of the takeover woods – for now – as 89% of shareholders voted against the proposal from Next15, originally agreed by the Saatchi board before Next’s share price tanked along with other tech-based stocks.

M&C became a battleground when deputy chairman Vin Murria and her tech vehicle Advanced AdvT acquired 23% and launched a lowish bid, promising to make M&C “more digital.” Murria remains a big shareholder.

Murria’s bid was greeted with less than enthusiasm by M&C managers and staff before Next stepped in. That deal would have made more sense as Next has a good record as a PLC, with various balls in the air.

But it has also bought Engine Creative recently, now rebranded as House 337, and arguably may have dodged a bullet with M&C which has an extensive but rather fragmented international network.

M&C, now helmed by Moray MacLennan, may not be sleeping that soundly. It’s currently valued at £166m, far less than before it was hit by a number of pre-takeover talks accounting problems. Other suitors may come knocking.

The trouble is that nobody seems to know how to value creative agencies any more. Nearly 20 years ago Sir Martin Sorrell’s WPP paid $4.7bn in stock for Y&R. It did, though, acquire Wunderman, currently a WPP pillar, as part of the deal. Next bought Engine (the one-time WCRS) for £77.5m including debt.

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