Speaking Tuesday with French newspaper Les Echos, Aegis Group ceo Robert Lerwill acknowledged "a certain logic" in some form of partnership with Havas, the French-headquartered global marketing company.

Referring to growing speculation that Aegis could form a working alliance with Havas media unit MPG, Lerwill remained cagey: "Sometimes to get the best media conditions, it is necessary to pull offers together," he said. "But at the moment, nothing concrete is under study."

Lerwill also confirmed that discussions continue with both WPP Group and US private-equity firm Hellman & Friedman, which he expects to culminate within weeks. "The British markets will not accept an uncertain situation for months," he added pointedly.

Informed opinion has it that if the WPP/H&F talks end in agreement, it could result in the dismemberment of Aegis with WPP snapping-up the market research businesses and H&F taking the media planning/buying elements for a future sell-off [WAMN: 05-Oct-05].

Whether or not such a scenario would be to the liking of Vincent Bolloré is unknown. He is a canny speculator who now holds a deal-busting 14.06% stake in Aegis [WAMN: 11-Oct-05].

Will he give his nod to the WPP/H&F deal, sell his Aegis holding, collect a handsome profit and maybe talk turkey with H&F about the Aegis residue? Or kill off the deal and mount a takeover bid of his own?

Bolloré claims he favours continuing independence for Aegis: "Its ceo told me that the company could develop without being integrated into one of the sector's global players. I share that analysis."

However, the corporate raider, known for hedging his bets, switched to Janus mode: "Which doesn't prevent us from being ready to definitively fix our position as soon as the [share] movements involving this company are known."

Data sourced from BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff