French advertising group Havas has become a contender for the hand of Grey Global Group, said the former's chairman/ceo Alain de Pouzilhac in an interview Monday with daily newspaper Le Figaro.

The Parisian moneymen are already waving fistfuls of dollars, de Pouzilhac told Figaro, and the acquisition "is effectively something that could interest Havas in terms of our strategy and our financial plan. Grey has strong points where Havas is not as strong and vice versa."

Havas, currently ranked number six among the world's agency holding companies -- immediately ahead of Grey in seventh position -- badly needs the critical mass that ownership of the latter would confer. Such a deal would put an end once and for all to the persistent rumours that Havas itself is vulnerable to hostile takeover.

And there would be few, if any, conflicts of interest with Grey's flagship account, Procter & Gamble.

Clearly sensitive to allegations that Havas lacks the ready cash demanded by Grey's all-omnipotent Tsar, Ed Meyer, de Pouzilhac made it clear that the dollar bills are already being counted and bundled.

"People in the market say Havas doesn't have the financial means -- but we do because we have financial partners. We are not irresponsible. We will look at it and, if we are interested, we will solve the convertible bonds issue before that.''

But no way would this be a buy 'at any price'. His priority remains the delivery of profits for Havas this year, insisted de Pouzilhac. A deal would be struck only if it created value for the company's shareholders.

What seemed until Monday a one-horse race with WPP Group the sole runner is now opening up. Some observers wonder if the field might suddenly get crowded with a third runner -- Japan's Dentsu?

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