Cordiant's £441m of losses come to light as Publicis closes in

Publicis Groupe was this week emerging as the most likely new owner of the stricken Cordiant as details were revealed of millions of pounds worth of losses suffered by the group during its acquisition spending spree.

Research by Marketing Services Financial Intelligence claims Cordiant has lost an average of £88 million a year - a total of £441 million since its demerger from Saatchi & Saatchi in 1997.

According to the research, a major part of the losses were because of goodwill write-offs, along with major restructuring costs, which suggests Cordiant paid 44 per cent over the odds for its acquisitions. The figures emerged as takeover talks continue between Cordiant and prospective buyers, including Publicis.

Senior Cordiant managers are said to favour a deal with the Paris-based supergroup. "It seems to offer the best potential opportunities for the largest number of our people," a group source said.

Meanwhile, the Cordiant-owned Bates UK was bracing itself for the possible loss of its £33 million B&Q creative account. B&Q chiefs are thought to be reluctant to remain within a Publicis-owned Bates. They would not share the Publicis agency in London with MFI and are unsure if Saatchis has enough retail expertise. However, B&Q is insisting that any new agency must take on the Bates team.