Publicis Groupe Snatches Up LBi for $540 Million

Development leaves SapientNitro as the remaining 'big fish'

Publicis Groupe has reached a conditional agreement to buy the agency LBi for $540 million, ending months of speculation about which holding company—WPP, Interpublic and Omicom being the others—would snag one of the few big fish left swimming independently in the digital ad agency ecosystem.

Amsterdam-based LBi counts Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, Volvo and Ikea as major clients. It reported earnings of $154 million during the first half of this year, marking an 18 percent lift compared to the same period in 2011.

The development comes on the heels of a 21-month period that’s seen digital shops like AKQA, Rosetta, Big Fuel, Firstborn and Rockfish swallowed up. With LBi seemingly off the table, industry chatter could turn to whether formidable advertising and technology company SapientNitro could be next in the holding company bidding wars. 

Meanwhile, the acquisitions scene also may be shifting to less expensive assets. WPP has been reportedly negotiating with Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Big Spaceship, hammering away at a possible deal around $12 million. Other names like Rokkan, Profero, Breakfast and Victors & Spoils could also be in play.

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