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BOLLORE SAYS STAKE IN HAVAS IS 'FOR THE LONG TERM'

Defends Intentions as Critical June 9 Vote Nears

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Days before a crucial meeting of shareholders of French ad company Havas, corporate raider Vincent Bollore, the company’s single-largest investor, said his stake in Havas is "for the long term. Whatever happens."
Vincent Bollore is seeking to have himself and three of his company's executives added to the Havas board.
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Mr. Bollore, who made his comments in an interview with French newspaper Le Monde last week, seemed to quell speculation that he might launch a takeover bid for the advertising company. Under French law, a shareholder who buys more than 33% of a company is required to launch a full takeover bid. Mr. Bollore has just more than a 20% stake in Havas.

'Out of the question'
“It is out of the question for us to launch a takeover bid for Havas,” he said. “We are minority shareholders, we hope to hold 20% to 30% of its share capital and to assert our rights. That’s our single objective.” Mr. Bollore said he believes Havas should remain independent and develop over the long term as its finances permit.

The interview ended months of silence by Mr. Bollore as to his intentions regarding Havas. Mr. Bollore, an investor and businessman who heads French conglomerate Bollore Group, wants four seats on Havas board. He has gained backing from Deminor, a French shareholder advisory firm, as well as from the Association Francaise de la Gestion Financiere, which represents French institutional investors.

June 9 vote
Havas' chairman-CEO, Alain de Pouzilhac, is urging shareholders not to approve Mr. Bollore’s nominations for the board at the critical June 9 shareholders meeting. Two shareholder advisory firms, Institutional Shareholder Services and Proxinvest, support Mr. de Pouzilhac's position. But what counts most, however, are the votes of Havas’ 90,000 individual and the 100 to 150 institutional investors (only one of which owns more than 5%). Most of Havas shares are owned in France.

Last week's comments by Mr. Bollore surely will rachet up tensions in the already contentious relationship between he and Mr. de Pouzilhac leading to the shareholder's meeting.

Mr. Bollore’s statements parried one of the complaints direct at him in recent months by Mr. de Pouzilhac -- namely, that Mr. Bollore has failed to clarify his intentions for Havas. Mr. Bollore said that “the right place to discuss with full knowledge of the facts and to explain your strategy is during directors’ meetings. You can’t do that anywhere else.”

Talking to the competition
He also subtly addressed comments made by Mr. de Pouzilhac in a May 25 Le Figaro story in which he called Mr. Bollore’s discussions last fall with Martin Sorrell, chief executive of Havas rival WPP Group, “unfortunate.” The talks occurred while both Havas and WPP were bidding for New York-based Grey Global Group. Mr. Bollore said he has known Mr. Sorrell for some time, and that “talking to your competitor doesn’t mean you are ready to sell your shares.”

Mr. Bollore also accused Mr. de Pouzilhac and his communications consultant, Anne Meaux, of launching “an endless media compaign” against him.

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