Publicis, Omnicom Merger Passes Antitrust Test in U.S.

Holding Companies Await Approval in Other Global Regions

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U.S. antitrust authorities from the Federal Trade Commission have cleared the Omnicom Group and Publicis Groupe merger.

"The expiration of the HSR review period in the U.S. and the approvals received in other jurisdictions satisfy some of the conditions necessary for the transaction to close," Publicis Groupe said in a statement. HSR refers to the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976.

Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Levy and Omnicom Group CEO John Wren
Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Levy and Omnicom Group CEO John Wren Credit: Balint Porneczi/Bloomberg

The companies also received regulatory approval in Canada, India, Turkey, South Africa and South Korea.

While U.S. approval is a major milestone for the ad giants looking to complete the deal by first quarter of 2014, the merger is subject to shareholder approval at both companies and additional global regulatory approvals.

In Europe, draft notification has been discussed with the European Commission since mid-September. In China, a draft filing was provided to MOFCOM (the nation's Ministry of Commerce).

In the U.S., the anti-trust filing was made at the beginning of October.

The groups' leaders aren't worried. "I don't anticipate any major issues," said Maurice Levy, Publicis Groupe's chairman-CEO, while addressing analysts and press about the company's third quarter earnings on October 16. "The hard work is behind us –now it's just a process that we have to follow cautiously. I'm optimistic, based on the opinions of lawyers and economists who've worked on market share issues."

At the time, he also said the companies were in the process of setting up an integration committee and task force.

A note from Deutsche Bank analyst Matt Chesler in late September following a meeting with Omnicom Group CFO Randy Weisenburger stated: "[Management] said things are going well for a complex, cross-border transaction. We have filed in US, EU, India, Australia, & others, with 6-7 more to go. Since the review of media buying will be on a country-by-country basis and is only 15-20% of combined [revenues], they are not concerned."

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