Alban Communications readies itself for a joint venture with IPM

OMD and the poster buying specialist Alban Communications have disposed of their shares in the jointly owned poster-buying company Outdoor Connection.

Alban is forming a new venture with Interpublic's IPM. The joint venture - called Helix - will handle poster buying for the Alban-owned specialist Concord and for IPM, although the two planning functions will remain separate and autonomous.

The decision to form a strategic link with IPM has increased speculation that Interpublic might be preparing to bid for Alban, one of just two remaining independent specialists.

However, Alan Simmons, the chief executive of Alban, denied this was the case. He said that by combining Concord's billings and backroom functions with IPM's, Helix would be better able to tackle Posterscope, the leader in the outdoor arena. Helix becomes the UK's second-largest buying point, with more than £140 million in billings.

"This represents an imaginative but entirely logical response to long-term trends in our market and one that will greatly enhance the competitive offerings of both companies," Chris Morley, the chief executive of IPM, said.

The move follows a series of agency centralisations in outdoor. In November, OMD moved its poster buying out of Outdoor Connection and into the Aegis-owned Posterscope specialist.

Walker Media quickly followed suit and moved its account from Concord into Posterscope, and in December ZenithOptimedia also shifted the majority of its account into Meridian Outdoor.