Havas goes up against WPP with last-minute bid for Grey

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LONDON - Havas has revealed that it has made a last-minute bid for Grey Global Group, going up against WPP Group, which has reportedly offered a bid of $1.25bn (£700m) for the company, and one US private equity firm.

The two holding companies will also being going up against private-equity company Hellman & Friedman, which is reported to be offering around $900 a share to buy Grey. Havas revealed the bid at 5pm New York time, two hours after the 3pm deadline for offers.

The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that WPP's cash-and-shares offer values the company at over $900 a share. The price offered by Havas has not been revealed at this stage.

WPP looks likely to be the frontrunner in the battle for Grey, with a high bid and reports that chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell is willing to keep Grey's president, chairman and CEO Ed Meyer on at the company.

In the run-up to the 3pm New York deadline for Grey bids, speculation that Havas could make an offer sparked an angry reaction from some of the company's shareholders, concerned that Havas' debt level and recent restructuring meant that it was not in a good position to make a bid. One of the French group's major investors, Vincent Bollore, had particularly objected to an offer.

However, Havas, a mid-sized holding company like its target Grey, faces the possibility that if it does not grow substantially, it could itself become the subject of a takeover bid. The possibility of merging Grey's media buying arm MediaCom with Havas' Media Planning Group appeals to chief executive Alain de Pouzilhac, because it would give Havas the biggest media buying agency in the world.

Reports suggest that Meyer, who controls Grey's voting power, is likely to make a decision on the bids in the next few days.

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