Bolloré Lifts Aegis Stake to 0.9% Below Takeover Threshold

25 May 2006

It's hay fever time - Vincent Bolloré beware!

An involuntary sneeze while calling his broker could compel the Havas chairman to make a takeover offer for Aegis Group, so close has he now come to the 30% level at which UK takeover rules require a formal bid to be made.

Late yesterday (Wednesday) the corporate raider's Bolloré Group lifted its stake in the London-headquartered media-buying and research network from 326 million shares (28.81%) to 328 million shares (29.01%) - just 0.9 per cent below the vital threshold.

There is much speculation as to Bolloré's intentions, both in financial and advertising circles. But the corporate raider, now Aegis's largest shareholder, remains tantalizingly uncommunicative, endlessly repeating that his stakebuilding is "just an investment".

His lieutenants also spout enigmatic vagaries. Havas ceo Fernando Rodés burbled existentially earlier this week: "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."

And responding to a question about the possibility of an informal working relationship between Havas and Aegis, Bolloré's right-hand man Phillipe Wahl denied there had been such discussions, adding mysteriously: "It is not impossible that this non-discussion stops." For the sake of comprehension he explained: "This is English understatement."

It now seems unlikely Bolloré will acquire further shares in Aegis pending the group's annual general meeting on June 14.

Among much else, that meeting will decide whether to elect two Bolloré nominees - the former owner of the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival Roger Hatchuel and ex-Alcatel president Phillipe Germond - to the Aegis board.

Data sourced from AdAge (USA); additional content by WARC staff