Bollore ups stake in Havas once more to cross 22% mark

PARIS - Vincent Bollore, the man who has been buying up large amounts of Havas shares, has upped his stake once again, now owning more than 22% of the company.

Bollore has been buying shares in Havas in summer, but his intentions for the company remain a mystery. At the time he started buying shares, Havas was in the process of bidding for Grey Global Group, but the company lost out to WPP Group, leading to speculation that it could become a takeover target from other ad groups.

Bollore is known to be a friend of Maurice Levy, chairman and CEO of Publicis Groupe, leading to speculation that Publicis could come to the rescue of Havas and, at least, keep it in French hands.

However, Levy has continually played down talk of a bid. In today's Financial Times' Creative Business, Levy is reported to have made it clear that the current price for the group is inflated.

Vincent Bollore has a reputation as a corporate raider, buying up shares in companies that are underperforming and then forcing them into restructuring or merging, and thus increasing the worth of his stake.

In September, when his stake in the company stood at around 10%, Bollore issued a statement of intent saying that he had no immediate plans to take control of Havas, but that he intended to ask for representation on the company's board.

Bollore Group is an old, family-owned company, best known for its industrial interests, although it has recently started to build up a media arm.

Its interests include shipping, logistics, fuel distribution and it also owns rubber and palm oil plantations. Its media businesses include the radio station Radio Nouveaux Talents, which began broadcasting in March this year, and it plans to launch a digital television station called Direct 8 next year.

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