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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

Charles Schwab

( SCH) and


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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


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or Sir Martin Sorrell's London-based

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, two much larger ad holding companies.

But in an interview with France's

Le Monde

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

La Tribune

, 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


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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.