MAURICE SAATCHI GOES A-WOOING

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LONDON-The clock is running out for Maurice Saatchi to line up at least a temporary international alliance, desperately needed to facilitate next month's pitch for the $135 million British Airways account.

A deal could come as early as this week-Mr. Saatchi is reportedly discussing a relationship with both Lintas Worldwide and Paris-based Publicis-and industry insiders said he is still talking to other agency networks without major international airline conflicts.

Perhaps significantly, Lintas Chairman-CEO Kenneth Robbins will be in London this week.

Another possiblity for an alliance could be an agency that works for Procter & Gamble Co., a client Mr. Saatchi would love to have. P&G Senior VP-Advertising Bob Wehling said the company hadn't warned its shops off allying with Mr. Saatchi. But, he said, "We remain firmly committed to the Saatchi & Saatchi agency. What [Maurice] does with his new agency and who he forms an alliance with is really up to him."

But when asked if P&G would work with both Saatchi & Saatchi and Mr. Saatchi's new agency, he said, "I can't foresee that both agencies would work for us, no."

Incumbent Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising is flying staff in from around the world to gear up for the mid-April BA pitch against J. Walter Thompson Co., Bartle Bogle Hegarty and Mr. Saatchi's New Saatchi Agency.

Ironically, given the talk of a potential alliance with Mr. Saatchi, Publicis President Maurice Levy has been rumored to be a contender for the new chairman post at Saatchi & Saatchi Co.

Insiders say this is unlikely and that the ideal candidate would be an American.

"About 45% of our business is in America, 45% of our shareholders are in America and the largest advertisers are in America," said a Saatchi spokesman.

This week Saatchi will announce pre-tax profits of about $50 million, up from $31.7 million last year, analysts predict.

"They're still in recovery from the problems of the late '80s," said PaineWebber analyst Alan Gottesman. "It's like talking about someone who's in a coma. You ask `Is he better?' Yeah, he's in less of a coma."

For 1995, little if any growth is expected as the company recovers from Bates Worldwide's loss of $400 million in Mars Inc. spending. Layoffs of about 150 Bates staff worldwide are already under way.

This week Saatchi will hold an extraordinary general meeting to let shareholders vote on the holding company's proposed new name, Cordiant, and a new share option scheme.

No fireworks are expected over the share option scheme, which sticks to U.K. institutional guidelines that offer top executives share options worth no more than eight times their salary over 10 years.

Chuck Paustian, Bruce Crumley and Pat Sloan contributed to this story.

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