Publicis Repudiates Bank-Inspired Havas Takeover Rumour

15 August 2003

The globe’s fourth largest agency holding company issued a statement Thursday denying it plans a takeover of the sixth largest – a move which [had it been true] could have led to the ousting of the current occupant of the number three slot.

Or for those less inclined to think size matters: the rumour refers respectively to Publicis Groupe, fellow French agency group Havas and WPP Group.

Said an explicit Publicis statement yesterday: “The group’s management wishes to indicate in a very clear manner that Publicis has absolutely no project or intention regarding Havas.”

Its first priority, insisted Publicis, remains the integration of Bcom3’s networks – flagship Leo Burnett – into its own global structure following last year’s agreed merger. Of equal importance is “the improvement of cashflow to meet and maintain [the] target of a 15% operating margin”.

Future acquisitions, if any, said Publicis, would be confined to developing its marketing services division. The group's current strategy did not include “any major acquisition”.

The rumour, which swept the ad and investment worlds on Thursday, was seemingly sparked by a research report prepared for Havas [presumably in confidence?] by an analyst at investment bank BNP Paribas.

This referred to Publicis’ takeover of Bcom3 and opined that “sufficient synergies” were also identifiable with Havas. “We believe Publicis is the most likely acquirer,” it said.

Other entrail-rakers – always long on imagination when short on facts – frenziedly thumbed their calculators. Their conclusion?

Combined Havas-Publicis revenues would aggregate to €5.6 billion ($6.31bn; £3.93bn), making such a hybrid roughly the same size as WPP – number three according to the 2002 rankings by Advertising Age – but since boosted by the billings from last month’s acquisition of Cordiant Communications, and now probably the new world champeen.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff