Publicis, Omnicom push back merger close date

The leaders of Publicis and Omnicom said the completion date of the merger of their two companies has been pushed back to mid-2014 at the latest, according to reports from the Morgan Stanley investor conference in Barcelona.

The leaders of Publicis Groupe and Omnicom Group said Tuesday that the completion date of the merger of their two companies has been pushed back to mid-2014 at the latest, according to reports from the Morgan Stanley investor conference in Barcelona.

Omnicom CEO John Wren and Publicis counterpart Maurice Lévy said regulatory approvals in the European Union, Russia, and other countries are still expected, but not finalized, according to Reuters.

When the two marketing services umbrella groups announced their merger at the end of July, they set March 2014 as the target date to close the deal.

The merger would create the largest marketing and advertising services holding company in the world, with a total market capitalization of $35.1 billion, surpassing WPP Group for the number one position. However, skeptics noted at the time that it faced approval in dozens of countries. The prospective Publicis Omnicom Group passed regulatory hurdles in the US early this month.

The group will establish a PR subcommittee to determine the structure of the newly combined holding company's PR and communications assets. The merged entity's communications firms would include MSLGroup and Kekst and Company from the Publicis side and Omnicom's FleishmanHillard, Ketchum, Porter Novelli, Marina Maher Communications, and Cone Communications.

Rivals take aim
Executives from the other major holding companies reportedly insisted at the conference that the merger is a boon for their own groups, contending that Publicis and Omnicom haven't explained to clients what's in it for them.

“Clients don't understand the benefit for them…that's a dangerous position to be in,” said Dentsu EVP Tim Andree, according to Bloomberg News. Along the same vein, WPP chief Martin Sorrell said “from a client point of view and employee point of view, there has been no articulation of the benefit of the deal.”

Sorrell made news of his own at the conference, forecasting like-for-like revenue growth for his company of more than 3% next year. He also struck down rumors of WPP acquiring Interpublic Group or Havas in an effort to regain the top spot, saying both are “significantly overvalued.”

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