A low profile romance between two high profile PR and marketing agency groups has fizzled out before the bans were called.

The prospective partners, Chime Communications and Incepta Group, admitted that there had been a good deal of heavy breathing earlier this month amid talks of merger. But although a matrimonial agreement eluded the lovelorn duo this time around, neither side rules out a marriage next year.

The pair have much in common: both lack the critical mass needed these days for survival by multinational mini-groups, and both have recently emerged from the red.

Incepta, the larger of the two companies by a factor of 2.3, has a market value of £134.4 million ($254.89m; €191.82m) compared with Chime's £55.4m. Last year Chime reported a pre-tax loss of £11.2m and Incepta lost £1.5m. Both, however, returned to the black in this year's first half, respectively by £3.2m and £2.8m.

Chaired by former Tory cabinet minister Francis Maude, Incepta would need the blessing of Chime's largest (20%) shareholder, WPP Group, before sealing the deal. Maude also has much in common politically with his opposite number at Chime, Lord Tim Bell, who in his glory days was renowned as Margaret Thatcher's favourite adman.

Should the happy couple exchange vows in 2005, their union would create a group worth around £200m - sufficient financial muscle, say analysts, to exploit an upturn in the currently lacklustre PR industry.

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