Investors in French ad holding company
are gearing up for a contentious shareholder meeting in Paris next Thursday that could determine the course of the company's future.
The fifth-largest advertising network in the world owns Euro RSCG Worldwide, Media Planning Group and Arnold Advertising and boasts clients including
( SCH) and
Speculation has swirled around the company since Bollore Medias Investissements took a big stake that later grew to more than 20% of the company. Vincent Bollore has nominated four people to the Havas board, a move opposed by Havas Chairman Alian de Pouzilhac and the Havas board.
Until today Bollore had not made his intentions regarding the company entirely clear; this has raised the ire of the Havas executive committee and fueled speculation that his group is a stalking horse for either
or Sir Martin Sorrell's London-based
, two much larger ad holding companies.
But in an interview with France's
newspaper Friday, Bollore said he was not interested in a takeover. He indicated that he would not oppose a CEO change. In the interview, Bollore also claims that his request for four seats on the Havas board is a sign of his long-term commitment to the company. He claims that he would like to raise his stake to 30% and that "what interests me is Havas' future."
But one Havas insider says, "You can see right through what he's saying. I wouldn't take this at face value."
According to an earlier report in another newspaper, France's
, Bollore is considering a sale of shipping lines Linea Setramar and Otal, with the proceeds to be used to build his stake in Havas. The value of such a sale is valued at over $500 million. But if Bollore can't succeed during next week's general meeting, some have said, he might sell his interest.
Havas has been weakened by the loss of
and Volkswagen, two high-profile and lucrative accounts, in the past year. Though it has recently won back a significant amount of business, it generates a fraction of the revenue of the other large ad networks.
On Friday, Havas rose 3 cents to $5.87.