Talk of a Grey Global bid attracts investors to Havas

LONDON – Talk of a possible bid by Havas for Grey Global Group is attracting investors to the sixth-largest advertising holding company as French media firm Bollore buys a 4-5% stake in Havas.

On Tuesday, Havas chairman and CEO, Alain de Pouzilhac, confirmed in an interview that Havas was interested in buying Grey Global Group. It was later reported that Havas was in talks with US private equity firm Blackstone about making a possible bid.

Since then, talks between Havas and Blackstone have broken down, but the two parties have indicated they are still prepared to make separate bids where they would be lining up against UK-based WPP Group.

For Havas, a bid for Grey Global is a make or break attempt to give it critical mass to compete with its larger rivals, which also include fellow French firm Publicis Groupe and Omnicom, as well as the aforementioned WPP.

Talk that Havas may make a play for Grey is pushing its share price higher and attracting investors who hope an enlarged Havas will be worth considerably more.

Havas shares were up almost 8% today to €4.02 as news of the Bollore investment, worth an estimated €45m, broke in French daily Le Figaro.

A Bollore spokesman said: "The group has taken between four and five percent but has less than five percent."

The diversified investment group Bollore, which had a turnover of €5.9bn in 2003, has interests in films and papers, transportation, fuel distribution including extensive business interests in Africa.

The investment in Havas is, according to Bollore, in line with its strategy of investing in the media industry. It already owns a 24% stake in Euromedia.

The investment makes Bollore the second largest shareholder in Havas after US investment fund Fidelity, which holds a 9.9% stake.

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