Speaking this morning at the Deutsche Bank Securities Media Conference in New York, Havas Chairman-CEO Alain de Pouzilhac said, "We are sorry about the Observer, but we're not focused on any major acquisitions. ... We are not in any discussions with Cordiant."
Read 'Observer' story
Under the blaring headline "Havas to buy Cordiant in $1 bn deal," the Observer reported that such a deal was likely to be announced within two weeks. (Read the Observer story.)
The story said, "Havas's offer has been well-received by the Cordiant board" and quoted an ad industry source as saying, "At that price, [Cordiant] is ready to bite Havas's hand off."
Earlier cryptic denial
Very early this morning, Havas issued a more cryptic statement consisting of 14 words: "Havas confirmed today that it is not in discussions with Cordiant Communications Group PLC."
Industry observers have considered a sale of Cordiant likely at some point in the ever-consolidating ad agency market. But given Cordiant's weakened position following major account losses at Bates, notably its U.S. Hyundai business, some industry insiders have questioned how attractive a target Cordiant is.
Cordiant shares, in the form of American Depository Receipts, traded mid-day at $7.16, down 19 cents. Havas traded at $7.35, down 9 cents.