In a move that might prove a two-edged sword, Aegis Group has invited potential bidders - among them several rivals - to inspect its accounts.

Publicis Groupe, having formally declared its interest, will head the line of viewers. Other scrutinizers whose motives range from serious purchasing intent to gaining competitive insight, are likely to include WPP Group and its henchman, the US private equity firm Hellman & Friedman. Havas and Interpublic Group might also feel a compulsion to peek at Aegis' numbers.

  • Meantime, Havas chairman and serial investor Vincent Bolloré, has not remained idle. This week he again upped his stake in Aegis, buying a further 7.4 million shares and hiking his percentage of voting stock from 14.06% to 14.7%.

    But he is still less than half-way to the bid watershed (30%) where UK company law requires a stockholder to make an offer for the remainder of a company's shares.

    Nonetheless, Bolloré's negotiating muscle increases day-by-day and he can effectively block any takeover deal of which he does not approve.

    Few know the star players on Europe's media scene better than Chris Ingram, former chairman/ceo of media independent Tempus Group before its ingestion by an unwilling WPP.

    Opines Ingram: "Vincent Bollore has maneuvered himself into a similar position as Martin Sorrell did when he was initially buying Tempus. That is, he has the choice of making a bid or selling his stake in a nice profit."

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