Bollore discloses 6% stake in Aegis

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[New York] Less than one month after being named CEO of Havas, Philippe Wahl told investors and analysts last week during a conference call to announce disappointing first-half 2005 revenue that "we have to reassess the strategy of the group." He refused to answer specific questions as to what direction Havas, parent of Euro RSCG Worldwide, Arnold Worldwide Partners and media-buying network MPG Group, is headed.

Analysts pressed Mr. Wahl for details about Havas's future, such as whether it might bid for Aegis Group, parent of media buying and planning agency Carat. Mr. Wahl wouldn't comment, but Havas shareholder Vincent Bollore last week disclosed he owns a 6% stake in Aegis. Havas is now being run by Mr. Wahl, Mr. Bollore and a recently elevated group of managers from the operating companies.

Second-quarter revenue dropped 5.5% to $451 million, compared with the year-earlier period. In the first half of 2005, Havas' revenue fell 6.4% to $854 million compared to the first half of 2004. Organic growth rose 3% for the second quarter 2004, and 2.2% for the first half of 2005. Revenue for North America was flat at $338 million, with the impact of account wins like RadioShack offset by the losses of Intel and Volkswagen.

In Asia, the worst-performing region, organic growth fell 6% in the first half 2005, primarily because of the Intel loss. Mr. Wahl said "our competitors' performance on organic growth has been above ours" and said the company must regain market share.

Mr. Wahl, 49, was named CEO of Havas on July 12, after months of battles between former Chairman-CEO Alain de Pouzilhac and Mr. Bollore, Havas' largest shareholder. After losing a fight to keep Mr. Bollore and his representatives off Havas's board, Mr. de Pouzilhac resigned in June. Mr. Bollore almost managed to replace him with Jean-Marie Dru, credited with building Omnicom Group's TBWA Worldwide into a worldwide network as president-CEO. When Mr. Dru changed his mind, Mr. Wahl, a former French banking exec little-known outside France, took the CEO post and Mr. Bollore became chairman.

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