Vincent Bollore Now Has 20% of Holding Company

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NEW YORK ( -- The largest shareholder in ad agency holding company Havas, Vincent Bollore, has increased his stake to 20%. Mr. Bollore, who began buying shares of Havas this July, disclosed the stake in a securities filing with French authorities today.

One month ago, when his holdings in Havas increased to a little more than 10%, Mr. Bollore said he intended to continue to buy shares in the company but that he did not immediately foresee taking control of Havas.

Smaller than its rivals
Havas is the parent company of agency networks Arnold Worldwide Partners and Euro RSCG Worldwide, and media buying and planning network MPG. Havas, which lost out to rival WPP Group and private equity firm Hellman & Friedman last month in a bid to purchase Grey Global Group, is the world's sixth-largest agency holding company. Once the WPP-Grey deal is completed, Havas will be well behind the industry's top four competitors -- Omnicom Group, WPP, Interpublic Group of Cos. and Publicis Groupe. Japan's Dentsu is fifth.

Havas is looking to hold on as a global player, and is hoping to retain two significant advertising accounts -- that of Volkswagen, handled by MPG in the U.S., and Intel, handled by Euro RSCG and MPG globally -- that have gone into review in recent weeks.

A spokesman for Mr. Bollore did not return calls for comment as to Mr. Bollore's intentions. As of early October the only other investors, in addition to Mr. Bollore, with holdings of 5% or greater included the Rodes Family and Group March, which sold MPG to Havas, and Fidelity Investments.

All eyes on Bollore
Mr. Bollore is an investor known for buying shares in underperforming companies, pushing for management change and then selling. His plans are of great interest to other investors and industry watchers. Havas last month reported a return to profitability for the first half following years of being burdened by heavy debt and an overly ambitious expansion plan. A restructuring, executed during the past 18 months, yielded positive results and improved Havas' operating margins on a par with that of its competitors. But that may not be enough for Mr. Bollore.

In mid-September, Mr. Bollore requested two seats on Havas' board; a decision will be made by the board at the company's next meeting in December, a Havas spokeswoman said. Mr. Bollore also wants to change Havas' governance to create a supervisory board that would oversee the board and management. The board will consider that request in May, the spokeswoman said.

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