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WPP Again Extends TNS Deadline

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NEW YORK With the vast majority of Taylor Nelson Sofres investors still holding out, WPP Group said it has again extended the deadline for acceptance of the holding company's nearly $2.2 billion offer to acquire the research firm.

The new deadline is Sept. 26. The initial WPP deadline expired Aug. 29, when shareholders representing less than 9 percent of the company's stock had agreed to accept to the terms of the proposal. The deadline was then extended to Sept. 12.

WPP confirmed that just 11 percent of the TNS shares had been tendered under the terms of the offer.

The low acceptance rate so far suggests that most shareholders still believe there is a chance WPP might sweeten its offer. But the holding company stressed in its extension notice that terms remain the same -- a mix of cash and newly issued WPP stock valued at just under $5 per TNS share. TNS stock continues to trade at about 1 percent below the offer price.

Responding to the second extension, TNS said it continued to urge shareholders to reject the current offer as too low. The company also said TNS CEO Donald Brydon met with WPP chief executive Martin Sorrell on Sept. 9 to discuss the possibility of a sweetened bid, but that Sorrell rejected the idea.

In a statement, TNS said it was "disappointed" with Sorrell's decision. "If a recommendable offer were to be forthcoming from WPP, then TNS' board and management would commit to cooperate with WPP to ensure a successful transition to WPP ownership," the company said. "In a business founded on employees with strong personal and client relationships, the board believes that such a smooth transition is in the interests of employees, clients and the value of the ongoing business."

WPP officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

Several weeks ago, Brydon told analysts he believed the TNS board was obligated to seek out potentially better offers for the company. The fact that he reached out to Sorrell this week suggests that TNS has yet to find prospective alternative bidders.