Insults fly in the battle of the billboards

More steps up the war of words in its effort to rebuff a bid from its French arch-rival. Christine Harper reports

THE FRENCH advertiser Decaux's plan to buy its arch enemy More Group - already threatened by regulatory issues - has been further complicated by its bitter rivalry with the UK company in the $17bn (pounds 10.2bn) outdoor advertising market.

Ever since Decaux launched its pounds 475m cash bid for More on 30 March, a regular stream of discouraging remarks have been directed against the French company by both More's chief executive, Roger Parry, and Clear Channel Communications of the US, whose pounds 446m offer had been accepted by Mr Parry before Decaux unveiled its bid.

Mr Parry insists his comments - which range from disparaging Decaux's competitive practices in France to wondering whether its chairman, Jean- Francois Decaux, is "two baguettes short of a picnic" - merely reflect his efforts to maintain More's competitive edge. Investors say they are confident that he is doing the right thing, because even though Decaux's bid offers more money to shareholders, it remains likely that it will meet opposition from the Office of Fair Trading.

"It's well known that More group and Decaux are quite fierce competitors, and it's appropriate for him to continue to compete with Decaux until a bid succeeds," said Crispin Finn, a fund manager at Capel-Cure Myers Capital Management. "As a shareholder I want him to stand up for the More Group."

Still, the anti-Decaux rhetoric has not helped More's shares. Hopes that Clear Channel would top Decaux's pounds 11.10-a-share bid drove More's share price to pounds 11.90 earlier this month. Since then, doubts have grown about Decaux's chances of winning regulatory approval, and shares are down to pounds 11.03.

"I think Parry is playing quite a careful game," said Simon Lapthorne, analyst at Granville Davies. "If Decaux's bid gets referred, as personally I think it probably should, then presumably that would allow the Americans to get it at their current price."

He questioned, however, whether it makes sense for Mr Parry to continue his frequent negative remarks about Decaux in the press: "As things stand at the moment, the Decaux bid has more in it for shareholders."

Clear Channel, a San Antonio-based broadcaster, has already won approval from the OFT because its purchase of More would represent its first step into the European outdoor advertising market. The company said on 17 April that it had 11.37 per cent of More's shares and reiterated: "The Decaux offer raises significantly greater public interest issues than those raised by Clear Channel's offer."

Decaux's offer, meanwhile, hinges on whether the OFT is concerned that Decaux and More are the only two companies that provide bus shelters and other outdoor conveniences to local government authorities in the UK.

Decaux has released a survey of 119 local governments in which it found only 10 were opposed to Decaux buying More, with the rest either neutral or supportive of the bid. But the UK's Local Government Association, which has not conducted a formal survey, said a small but significant number of its members have voiced opposition to the Decaux bid, while none have indicated support.

"We've heard from significant large authorities who hold multi-million pound contracts and they have concerns," said Andy Elmer, the LGA's head of planning, transport and the environment.

He said the association will try to assess more of its 500 members in time to give the OFT a better overall view of the concerns posed by a Decaux-More link-up.

The OFT has said it will make a recommendation to the Department of Trade and Industry by 22 May.

Meanwhile, More and Decaux continue their sparring, much of it through the press.

In the latest twist, the Daily Telegraph quoted Mr Parry saying a takeover would give Australian Provincial Newspapers the right to buy out More's stake in their Australian joint venture, Adshel Street Furniture, and that Decaux was "despondent" at this news. The article points out that Clear Channel already has a radio joint venture with APN.

"I keep quoting- but nobody ever runs it - that francs are as good as dollars," Mr Parry said in a recent interview.

"We are waiting for the OFT to complete due process, and whilst that is going on Decaux remains my principal worldwide competitor."

He admits, however, that long-held animosity and cultural differences make him innately suspicious of Decaux.

"They are a very secretive, private family company and we are a widely held public company ... it's a fundamentally different culture," he said. "It is difficult for me, because my staff regard Decaux as the enemy, as the competitor."

Granville Davies' Mr Lapthorne said the entrepreneurial Mr Parry would never stand for working under the thumb of the Decaux family, even though the family has said it plans to go public within a few years.

"The suggestion that he'd ever work for them is laughable," Mr Lapthorne said.

Asked whether he would feel comfortable working for Decaux, Mr Parry responded: "I'll tell you if it happens - it's different working for a single shareholder than it is working for a group of shareholders.

"My natural career is much more to do with running public companies than it is to do with the subsidiaries of another company."

Copyright: IOS and Bloomberg

News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

Sport
Erik Lamela celebrates his goal
football

Argentinian scored 'rabona' wonder goal for Tottenham in Europa League – see it here

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
musicReview: 1989's songs attempt to encapsulate dramatic emotional change in a few striking lines
News
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim Balotelli acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
Don’t try this at home: DIY has now fallen out of favour
voicesNick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of it
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Sport
Phil Jones (left) attempts to stop the progress of West Bromwich Albion’s James Morrison on Monday
Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo, writes Paul Scholes
Arts and Entertainment
Saw point: Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in ‘Serena’
filmReview: Serena is a strangely dour and downbeat affair
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Markit EDM (CADIS) Developer

£50000 - £90000 per annum + benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Markit EDM (CA...

SQL Developer with T-SQL, Watford, Hertfordshire - £350 - £360

£350 - £360 per day: Ashdown Group: SQL Developer with T-SQL, Watford, Hertfor...

Chief Financial Officer

120-150k: Accountancy Action: We are looking for an experienced CFO from a min...

IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

£24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker