Bolloré Again Ups Aegis Stake, Nears Mandatory Bid Level

23 May 2006

Corporate raider and Havas chairman Vincent Bolloré is now just 1.19% below the thirty per cent stockholding level at which, to conform with with UK takeover law, he must make a formal bid for Aegis Group .

But with 28.81% of Aegis' equity, he is likely to declare "stick", his recently appointed lieutenant, Havas ceo Fernando Rodés, hinted in a weekend interview with the Financial Times .

According to Rodés, Bolloré is now in a position from which he can significantly influence events at Aegis without the effort [and expense] of acquiring the London-headquartered global media and research specialist

Crows Rodés: "He has the key. Most probably nothing will happen in Aegis without his consent. With that move he has put an opportunity on the horizon for Havas."

Claiming he cannot foresee what might transpire between Aegis and Havas - insisting this to be a matter decided solely by Bolloré in a private capacity - Rodés acknowledged that Aegis could represent an "important short cut" in Havas' development, there being a "high degree of compatibility between the two groups".

Like an experienced fisherman reeling in his catch, Rodés expressed his admiration for Aegis' media-buying arm Carat, declaring it to be "a good company" with which Havas has "a certain degree of empathy".

It was not, however, the only strategic media option for the French-owned group. "I think we are open to any possibility at this stage," Rodés said.

One such "possibility", industry onlookers believe - especially in the light of cosy chats known to have taken place between Bolloré and WPP Group ceo Sir Martin Sorrell [WAMN: 22-Nov-05], is a carve-up of Aegis in which the former acquires Carat and other media properties while the latter gains market research network Synovate.

Last week Aegis spurned Bolloré's demand for two seats on its board [WAMN: 19-May-06], arguing that this could create "fundamental conflicts of interest" with those of other shareholders given his involvement with a rival company.

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