Questions have been raised over Aegis’ future after it confirmed receiving an early stage approach from French rival Ipsos to acquire its market research arm.
The London-based marketing group, which also has a media buying business, verified that talks were taking place between the two companies amid reports that a successful sale of Synovate could net it between £400-600 million.
But Synovate, which has offices in 64 countries and employs 5,900 staff, has also reportedly attracted interest from other buyers such as WPP and GfK, which may likewise be tempted to make a bid.
Aegis said in a statement: "There can be no certainty that any agreement will be reached." But a number of analysts and investors have indicated that any deal could push Aegis itself into play.
Tom Singlehurst, a media analyst at Citigroup, told the Financial Times: "This feels like the precursor to a proper endgame."
Ian Whittaker, an analyst at Liberum Capital, agreed. "The announcement of these talks, plus the questions it raises over Aegis’ future, are likely to mean the stock outperforms its agency peers over the short-term. The shares are a favourite of the event-driven funds and this speculation.....is likely to [create] significant momentum."
The Financial Times pointed out, meanwhile, that the last serious takeover attempt of Aegis in 2005 by both WPP and Publicis was blocked by Vincent Bollore, a French industrialist who took a 26.5% stake in Aegis and a 33% holding in Havas, a rival of similar size.
Many observers saw the two firms as natural bedfellows at the time, but while speculation of a merger subsequently died down, it is now making itself felt again. This situation is significant, the newspaper believes, because size is becoming increasingly important for players in the media-buying game to negotiate discounts with the big TV networks and other media owners.