Bolloré’s Aegis Stake Passes 25%

BOSTON French financier and Havas chairman Vincent Bolloré on Friday upped his stake in Aegis Group past the 25 percent mark. Surpassing one-quarter ownership in Aegis provides Bolloré with veto power over an acquisition of the company by a third party.

Also on Friday, WPP Group said it would not make a bid to acquire Aegis [Adweek Online, Nov. 25].

London-based WPP had joined with San Francisco investment firm Hellman & Friedman to make a potential bid for Aegis, the U.K.-based holding company that is best known as the parent of the Carat media agency network.

At Aegis’ request, Britain’s Takeover Panel last month had set Nov. 25 as the deadline for WPP to make a formal offer.

In a statement, WPP said “an indicative proposal was submitted to the board of Aegis on Nov. 16 by WPP and affiliated funds of Hellman & Friedman. The proposal outlined alternative all-cash offers, one by WPP and H&F, and one by WPP, H&F and, possibly, one other party. WPP has since been informed that the board of Aegis does not wish to pursue either alternative. Accordingly, WPP announces that it has no intention to make an offer for Aegis.”

WPP did not identify the “other party” involved and a holding company representative was not immediately available for comment.

In a statement, Aegis said WPP and H&F’s offer price was “materially below … the price in the indicative proposal made by Publicis. Accordingly, WPP and H&F were informed on Nov. 16 that their proposal did not form the basis for any continuing dialogue. The board was not asked to consider any proposal involving any other party.”

Aegis CEO Robert Lerwill said WPP and H&P’s withdrawal “was not a surprise, given that [they] had not made a credible proposal to the board.”

Paris-based Publicis Groupe considered making a bid for Aegis, but last month said it had withdrawn from the process. Publicis’ potential bid had been valued at approximately $2.8 billion [Adweek Online, Sept. 22].

WPP last week had declined to comment on reports that it was in talks with Bolloré to make a joint bid along with H&F. Bolloré’s representatives could not be reached.

Bolloré is the largest Aegis shareholder. If his stake reaches 30 percent, he would be required by U.K. law to bid on Aegis.

Both Publicis and WPP have reserved the right to re-enter the bidding if Bolloré or some other third party makes a formal offer for Aegis.

Bolloré’s investment in Aegis is handled by a company separate from Havas.

WPP’s interest in Aegis centered on its Synovate research operations; H&F would likely have acquired the rest of the company. In addition to Synovate and Carat, Aegis also owns i-shop Isobar.

—with Steve McClellan

This story updates an item posted on Nov. 25 with news of Bolloré’s increased investment.