Europe gives Publicis-Omnicom merger green light

The European Commission, the European Union's antitrust body, signed off on the pending merger of Omnicom Group and Publicis Groupe on Thursday.

PARIS: The European Commission, the European Union's antitrust body, signed off on the pending merger of Omnicom Group and Publicis Groupe on Thursday.

The Commission concluded that the transaction would not raise competition concerns due to the bidding nature of the markets, presence of other large competitors, low entry barriers, and the significant countervailing power of media vendors, it said in a statement. The holding companies sought Commission approval of the merger in November.

Its consent follows approvals in the US, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, and Ukraine.

These clearances satisfy “some” of the conditions necessary for the transaction to close, according to a statement. Additional regulatory approvals, including merger-control nods in China, registration of the transaction with US and European securities regulators, stock exchange listings, and consent by shareholders of both companies are still required to complete the merger.

In November, the leaders of Publicis and Omnicom said the completion date of the merger could be pushed back from the original target date of March to mid-2014 at the latest.

The companies announced plans to merge into Publicis Omnicom Group in July, in a move that would form the world's largest marketing umbrella firm, with a total market capitalization of $35.1 billion.

The group planned to establish a 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.

Omnicom declined to offer further information, and Publicis representatives were not available for comment.

Earlier this month, Maurice Lévy, chairman and CEO of Publicis, hinted that the holding company's revenue growth softened in the final three months of 2013 after some clients pushed back launches or media spending into this year.

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