Active Value's hopes of stymying WPP's takeover of Cordiant were looking increasingly forlorn last night after the French media giant Publicis confirmed it had refused to take part in an attempt to bring about a change of control at the troubled advertising agency.
The disclosure came as the Syrian chess enthusiast Nahed Ojjeh increased her stake in Cordiant to 10.1 per cent. The billionaire investor bought another 775,000 Cordiant shares at 3.75p on Friday and disclosed them to the market yesterday morning.
The share purchases were at a substantial premium to yesterday's closing price of 3.37p and the 2.4p offered by WPP as part of a £266m takeover bid. They came two days before WPP intends to delist Cordiant shares in preparation for completing its takeover.
The deals, done through the offshore vehicle Dacor, were disclosed as Publicis tried to clarify its intentions regarding Cordiant. A statement issued yesterday evening said Publicis "has no interest in participating, either directly or indirectly, in any possible attempt to gain control of Cordiant".
It repeated that it is solely interested in Cordiant's 25 per cent holding in Zenith Optimedia, the media buying agency in which Publicis holds the other 75 per cent.
The statement confirmed it had met Active Value, which owns 28.7 per cent of Cordiant and is apparently trying to derail an agreed takeover by WPP before tomorrow, when Cordiant's shares are due to be delisted.
It said: "Active Value asked to meet with us last week. After first declining to meet, we finally met with their representatives on Saturday 12 July after having been authorised to do so by the UK Takeover Panel. The proposal made to us by Active Value was declined because, among other things, it would have involved Publicis being a party to arrangements that may have led to a change of control of Cordiant."
This refers to a clause in the Zenith shareholding agreement between Cordiant and Publicis which entitles Publicis to acquire Cordiant's stake in Zenith for a knock-down price if there is a change of control at Cordiant.