Bolloré proposes Aegis-Havas deal

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The Independent Online

Vincent Bolloré, the French corporate raider, has made a proposal to the board of Aegis to merge the media group with the rival Havas business that he chairs, it emerged yesterday.

Aegis wrote to shareholders yesterday to urge them to reject nominations to its board from M. Bolloré, who has built a 29 per cent stake in the British company through his Groupe Bolloré investment vehicle. It said the Frenchman had a "severe conflict of interest" because of his role as a major shareholder and chairman of Havas.

The nominations will be put to a vote at Aegis' annual meeting on 14 June.

In the letter, Aegis revealed that M. Bolloré had suggested it should "combine" with Havas or at least merge with the group's media buying business, MPG.

Aegis has two media-buying businesses and a market research arm. Sir Martin Sorrell's WPP is understood to be interested in acquiring the market research interests, and M. Bolloré recently suggested in an interview that he was keen to do a deal with Sir Martin.

In what amounted to a pre-emptive defence document, Aegis told shareholders: "We have ... considered the views of Groupe Bolloré and Havas but do not favour a combination of Aegis with either Havas or MPG ... Groupe Bolloré is now seeking representation on the Aegis board. The board believes this is as a direct consequence of not being able to convince Aegis to pursue an agenda that suits Groupe Bolloré's interests."

It is understood that although Aegis has met with M. Bolloré, there have been no detailed discussions or formal offer.

Aegis said a merger with Havas would be "unattractive" because most of the Havas business is in media sectors not covered by Aegis.