A Merger for Havas and Aegis?

At UBS Media Conference: Havas CEO Fernando Rodés Vila

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Havas CEO Fernando Rodés Vila painted the holding company as a network very much on the upswing at this week's UBS Global Media & Communications conference.
Fernando Rodés Vila

Mr. Rodés Vila, joined by Euro RSCG Worldwide CEO David Jones and MPG's chief strategist, Coleen Kuehn, cited Havas' investments, new-business wins and continued focus on digital as the drivers of the turnaround.

Vincent Bollore
But he acknowledged that it hasn't always been easy for the holding company. Havas, formerly the fourth-largest holding company, slipped down to its current No. 6 position after a "terrible shopping spree" earlier in the decade, he said. The company has been getting itself back on track under the stewardship of Vincent Bollore, who became chairman of Havas in 2005 and is currently the group's largest shareholder.

"We have done a lot of cleaning up," Mr. Rodés Vila said.

Yesterday's presentation would have been incomplete without the compulsory question about an impending merger between Havas and rival holding company Aegis. Mr. Bollore, who is also the largest shareholder in Aegis, has shown an interest in pairing Aegis, whose biggest unit is the Carat media-agency network, with MPG, Havas' media division.

"We think it's a natural association ... and I think eventually natural law will be enforced. The only thing we are asking for is dialogue," Mr. Rodés Vila said. Aegis' board of directors has continually blocked Mr. Bollore's efforts to get two seats on the board.

Year-end projections
After reporting its strongest quarterly results since 2000 in the third quarter of 2007, Havas has slightly revised its revenue and profit projections for the year, with revenue expected to be up 6.1% and net income is estimated up 11%.

Much of that growth can be attributed to new-business wins. Over the last 24 months, Euro RSCG has won more than $3 billion in new media accounts, including those of Reckitt Benckiser, Hyatt, Exxon Mobile, Kraft's Ritz crackers and Sprint. Havas Media has also pulled in domestic and international business in the past year, including Credit Swiss, the BBC, Dell and Coca-Cola in foreign markets and Sears domestically.

Mr. Rodés Vila said Havas wants to consolidate its positions in markets it currently leads, focus on emerging markets such as Brazil, India and China, and continue to develop sports marketing and branded-entertainment services. He also said digital will be key for the holding company, and that he expects all agencies to be integrated by the end of 2009.

Both Euro and Havas Media have made steps in the digital space in recent months. Euro RSCG has combined with digital agency Euro RSCG 4D under one operation in New York, and Havas Media is moving into digital trading, using a proprietary data platform called Artemis to capture digital consumer profiles, buy impressions and then sell access to consumers.
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