Eyebrows hit hairlines in the ad world Tuesday following the announcement by Publicis Groupe that will not bid (as widely expected) for the Grey Global Group -- put up for grabs last month by chairman/ceo and controlling shareholder Ed Meyer.

But, if the decision came as a surprise to adland's citizenry, it was balm to the Paris bourse, where Publicis shares gained 1.3% to end the day at €22.65 ($27.86; £15.03).

Goldman Sachs and Meyer, however, are less likely to be pleased at the loss of the auction's two most likely contenders: Publicis and Omnicom, which declared its lack of interest at the start of this month [WAMN: 02-Jul-04].

Publicis, which shares with Grey a large tranche of Procter & Gamble business, gave a number of reasons for its disinterest, while omitting the most probable. That the Cincinnati colossus (known to be averse to having too many eggs in any one basket) vetoed a Grey-Publicis marriage.

Now all eyes are focused on WPP Group, seen by the cognoscenti as only remaining contender with pockets of sufficient depth.

But the UK-based group -- which handles large slices of Unilever business -- is highly unlikely to be a runner unless the persuasive Sir Martin Sorrell can convince Alan G Lafley and his acolytes that WPP's Chinese walls have the same impregnability as the People's Republic's greatest tourist attraction.

Did anyone mention a dark horse called Dentsu?

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