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NEWS8 November 2005

Bolloré nears 25% of Aegis

Excitement and rumours abound as French corporate raider Vincent Bolloré closes in on a 25% stake in Aegis

Vincent Bolloré, the French corporate raider and chairman of Havas, triggered a fresh round of speculation concerning Aegis yesterday as he built his stake in the MR and media services group to nearly 25%.

Already Aegis' biggest shareholder, Bolloré is now almost 5% shy of a 30% shareholding that would force him to make a formal offer for the owner of research agency Synovate. However, he has previously said his stake is purely a “financial investment”.

Bolloré's share-buying began in August with a 6% stake. In September, when Aegis revealed it had received a takeover approach valuing the group at £1.5bn, many suspected the mystery suitor was Bolloré.

It later emerged that ad agency Publicis – a rival to Bolloré's Havas – was behind the approach, however the company backed away from talks with Aegis in October.

WPP is now the only company known publicly to be considering a bid for Aegis, with its eye on a takeover of Synovate. It has been ordered to say by 25 November whether it intends to make a play for the group.

Meanwhile, financial news service Reuters quoted an unnamed source this afternoon as saying that Bolloré may clarify his plans towards Aegis after WPP has announced its decision.

And to complicate matters further, Publicis has said it may still bid for Aegis if a “third party announces a firm intention to make an offer”.