Aegis Share Price Down ,Bolloré Again Ups Stake

18 October 2005

Aegis Group's share price took an inevitable dive Monday - albeit by a relatively gentle 4% - after Publicis Groupe quit the poker table and stock market speculators, deprived of an quick kill, cut their losses.

To the surprise of many, not least the market dice-throwers, Paris-headquartered Publicis abruptly announced Friday it had decided not to make a formal offer for the London-based media-buying and research group.

Chairman/ceo Maurice Levy, scenting a likely bidding war with WPP Group, dismissed the deal as "not in the best interest of [Publicis] shareholders".

All of which was to the liking of French corporate raider and master strategist Vincent Bolloré, who on Monday happily scooped up a large tranche of the unloaded Aegis shares, thereby increasing his stake from 15.34% to 17.38%.

This leaves WPP and its camp followers at US private equity group Hellman & Friedman with a clear run - if that's the way Bolloré wants it. Many onlookers believe he will now play a waiting game, not least because he is a position to block any deal of which he disapproves.

Another scenario is that Havas (of which Bolloré is chairman and largest shareholder) will launch its own bid for Aegis when the wind is in the right direction. As the key stockholder in both companies, he holds most of the cards.

The sole certainty is that when the fat lady warbles her final note, Vincent Bolloré will be renting an even larger bank vault to store the loot.

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff