Suitor Believed to Be Publicis

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LONDON ( -- Shares in Aegis Group soared today after the London-based media-buying company confirmed widespread rumors that it has received a long-expected takeover approach believed to be from Publicis Groupe, valuing the company at around $2.8 billion.
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Executives familiar with the situation said Publicis has been in preliminary discussions with Aegis, although Aegis declined to identify the potential bidder.

Publicis has expressed interest before in ad groups that have gone into play, including Cordiant Group and Grey Global Group, both later sold to WPP Group, but walked away from those deals.

Interest sparked by Vincent Bollore
Interest in Aegis was sparked by Havas Chairman Vincent Bollore’s acquisition of a 6% stake in Aegis and his apparent interest in combining Havas and Aegis if possible.

However, an Aegis statement insisted: “The approach is preliminary in nature and there can be no certainty that an offer will be made."

London-based Aegis is complying with U.K. regulations in issuing the statement, which was made without the agreement of whoever is trying to take over the company. Leading contenders for Aegis are believed to be Havas and Omnicom Group as well as Publicis.

A spokesman for Aegis refused to comment on the parties involved in the discussions but said that a further announcement would be made “in due course.” He would not confirm that the Aegis board is scheduling a meeting to discuss the offer.

Omnicom's previous offer
Omnicom made an approach to Aegis last year, valuing the company at $2.5 billion, but was turned down. WPP Group and Publicis have also been cited by analysts as potential suitors, but one analyst said, “It could be anybody.” Publicis is unlikely to be Aegis’ only suitor.

Aegis’ share price leaped to $2.55 on the news this morning –- taking the price above the level that Aegis said the potential buyer had offered.

Aegis Group owns the Carat and Viseum media planning and buying networks, as well as Isobar, its digital network, and Synovate research. Aegis recently announced strong revenue and profit growth for the first half of 2005, with revenue up 14.8% to $682 million and organic growth at 7.5%. Aegis CEO Robert Lerwill said at the time, “We would always look at anything that could give out higher value for Aegis shareholders. We would consider anything plausible.”

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