Market signals approval for Publicis deal despite client conflicts

LONDON - Publicis Groupe's $3bn (£2.1bn) takeover of B|Com3 and subsequent partnership with Dentsu has been well received by the market, despite the emergence of potentially serious client conflicts.

Shares in Publicis and Dentsu rose after yesterday's announcement, which will create the world's fourth-largest advertising group. Paris-listed Publicis closed yesterday at €38.79, nearly 12% up on the previous day's close, while Dentsu, which listed in Tokyo last year, was up by 4.1%, at 689,000 Yen.

In a press conference yesterday, Maurice Levy, chairman and CEO of Publicis, and Roger Haupt, CEO of B|Com3 and chied operating officer designate of Publicis, said that the deal had been warmly greeted by the group's largest clients. Procter & Gamble, which already uses agencies within both the B|Com3 and Publicis networks, has welcomed the move.

However, it has emerged that there is a potentially serious client conflict between General Motors, which is currently with B|Com3, and Publicis, which has the Toyota Motor, Fiat, Renault and BMW accounts. Toyota, it is rumoured, has already been considering the possibility of a switch in agencies.

The problem for the motor companies, however, is where to take their business. As the advertising industry continues to consolidate, the chances of finding an international holding group with no affiliations to any other car maker are slim. Ford, for example, has a relationship with the WPP Group and Omnicom handles DaimlerChrysler.

One possible winner, should there be any fallout, could be the Interpublic Group of Companies, which already handles some of the General Motors business. Last week, it announced it had lost $750m in business during 2001, because of client conflicts relating to its takeover of True North in 2000.

Publicis will now be hoping that the benefits of its deal with Dentsu, which gives it a strong presence in the Japanese market, will outweigh any problems clients may have sharing networks with competitors.

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