Bolloré to Renew Aegis Board Quest

NEW YORK The Bolloré Group last week requested that agency holding company Aegis Group convene an emergency shareholders meeting, according to sources.

The Paris-based company, helmed by Havas chairman Vincent Bolloré, already owns 29 percent of Aegis’ shares. Bolloré has been trying to gain seats on Aegis’ board, and the meeting request had been expected.

As yet, London-based Aegis has not received the required formal notification that would require it to schedule such a meeting—but that notification is expected soon, sources said. Once the formal request is made, Aegis would have four weeks to convene proceedings.

Bolloré had indicated his desire for the meeting (the right of any shareholder with more than 10 percent ownership under U.K. law) in order to renew his bid for board representation.

At Aegis’ annual meeting in June, two Bolloré board nominations were defeated by shareholders [Adweek Online, June 14.]

Bolloré argued that his stake in the company warranted the seats. But Aegis management countered that such representation constituted a conflict of interest, given Bolloré’s control and management of Havas.

“It’s difficult to see what’s changed,” in the four months since the last vote, said one source.

Aegis officials declined comment. Bolloré representatives could not be reached.

In a recent report on Aegis by Deutsche Bank, analyst Patrick Kirby argued that Bolloré would have a difficult time making his case, given that Aegis has produced record first-half financial results in 2006.

“If he is to advance his case,” Kirby wrote, Bolloré must “present a constructive case on how he can add value to Aegis. Given the company’s improving operational performance, there is no pressure on management to change its existing strategy.”

Aegis generated a record $1.3 billion in new business in the first half of 2006, and just last week added General Motors’ $750 million European planning and buying account, as well as business from Ernst & Young.

“If Bolloré wants to secure control of Aegis,” concluded Kirby, “he must either make a formal offer himself, or participate as a partner in a takeover by a third party.”

Aegis owns the Carat, Isobar and Vizeum agency networks. Havas holdings include Arnold, Euro RSCG and MPG.