Publicis Group

of France, one of the largest advertising networks, will acquire independent U.S. agency

Fallon McElligott

, the companies said Wednesday. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Minneapolis-based Fallon, one of the more highly regarded creative agencies in the country, handles advertising for high-profile clients that include

UAL's

(UAL) - Get Report

United Airlines

,

Starbucks

(SBUX) - Get Report

,

Ralston-Purina

(RAL)

and

Nordstrom

(JWN) - Get Report

. The agency's billings exceed $700 million.

"Fallon McElligott has consistently been courted by the biggest and best agency networks in the business," Patrick R. Fallon, the agency's founder and chairman, said in a statement. "Once we understood how closely Publicis Group's outlook and philosophy for the future mirrored our own, it was an easy decision to make."

Under the terms of the agreement, Paris-based Publicis will own 100% of Fallon, which will continue to operate independently.

"It makes sense," said Alan Gottesman, president of industry consultant

West End Consulting

. "It isn't a shock, but it is a surprise."

The deal certainly bolsters Publicis' U.S. presence, Gottesman said, which probably was the main motive in the acquisition. "It is very much of strategic value to Publicis," he said. Publicis, the largest ad agency in Europe, has been pushing to expand its presence in the United States. Over the last few years, it has acquired several U.S. agencies, including San Francisco-based

Hal Riney & Partners

in 1998.

For Fallon, the agreement gives the agency access to a global network. "We can now offer all of our clients a performance-proven, worldwide network with incredible muscle, added services and global expertise," Fallon said. Added Gottesman: "Fallon doesn't really have international distribution. This could really vault them onto the world stage."

Publicis is also reportedly among the bidders for marketing and ad holding company

Snyder Communications

(SNC)

.