Voracious French marketing services group Havas Advertising is reportedly in the early stages of merger talks with Chicago-based True North Communications, parent of FCB Worldwide and one of the globe’s largest independent agency networks.

Although the talks are described as “preliminary” and could easily end in stalemate, the ad world has been taken by surprise given its expectation of a deal between True North and Britain's Cordiant Communications – in intermittent takeover talks for over a year.

However, some onlookers believe that Cordiant has become twitchy over its negotiations with True North, having been outbid by Havas last November when it tried to acquire US public relations shop Abernathy MacGregor. Said a Cordiant adviser at the time: “We will not get involved in auctions.”

True North is particularly vulnerable to takeover following the recent loss of its largest account, DaimlerChrysler. If Havas is successful, the acquisition would widen the gap between it and fellow French arch-rival Publicis. In the global league, the duo rank respectively fourth and fifth behind WPP, Omnicom and Interpublic.

Invited to comment, Havas and True North both sang from the same hymn sheet, responding that is not their policy to comment on rumours or speculation.

News source: Financial Times