Saatchi stalked by Americans

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SAATCHI & Saatchi, the UK's best-known advertising group, is being stalked by two US predators, True North and Grey, writes Jason Nisse.

Insiders expect a bid that values the group at more than pounds 750m to be launched in the next few weeks.

Saatchi shares have nearly trebled in value this year as speculation has mounted about the future of the company. Investors have come to realise that the hard work put in by its chief executive, Kevin Roberts, in wooing its leading client, Procter & Gamble, has paid dividends. P&G awarded Saatchi two major accounts in the US, Oil of Olay and Pringles, which it removed from Wells BDDG, then part of the GGT Group, after a falling out.

Saatchi will have become more attractive to True North and Grey, both large ad agencies, since the $1bn (pounds 620m) takeover of MacManus, a Chicago agency, by rival, Leo Burnett. This deal only went ahead once P&G agreed to let advertising groups work for other consumer goods companies provided they did not have the rival brands in the same agency.

This was a change of attitude from P&G whose previous approach to such conflicts caused Saatchi a headache when it still owned the Bates network, now part of Cordiant Communications Group.

Analysts had predicted that Interpublic, the marketing services giant that was thwarted in its attempts to buy MacManus, might go for Saatchi.