Chime and Incepta urged to resume talks about merger

LONDON - Senior public relations executives and City watchers have urged marcoms groups Incepta and Chime to press ahead with their stalled merger talks.

Despite Chime's statement to the stock exchange earlier this week that "no agreement on terms was reached, the talks have ceased", observers and people familiar with the situation believe that both companies would do well to find a way through the main sticking points in their discussions and complete the deal.

"There is an irrefutable market logic in doing this deal," said one senior source familiar with both companies. "But, as ever, it comes down to personalities."

Though Chime chairman Lord Bell would not comment beyond his company's statement, the market is rife with speculation that the two companies will resume talks in the new year.

Some say that apart from the advantages of marrying Chime's portfolio of agencies, which include Bell Pottinger, Good Relations and Insight Marketing, with Incepta's firms, Citigate Dewe Rogerson and The Red Consultancy, debt levels at both companies are part of the motivating factor behind a deal.

Chime was forced into a refinancing deal in early 2003 after it slumped to a £42m loss. It also had to sell off 49% of advertising agency HHCL & Partners to WPP.

"With the share price at the current level Chime can't afford to make acquisitions and debt levels could also be a hindrance to organic growth," said one market source.

But another source close to both firms dismissed this, pointing out that Chime is now in much better shape.

Neither is this thought to be the first time that Incepta and Chime have courted each other. The firms were rumoured to have held talks three years ago before the departure of then joint Chime CEO Rupert Howell in 2002.

Whatever the outcome of any possible future discussions, it seems certain that Lord Bell will be at the centre of any deal.

Chime aslo owns creative agency Heresy, created out of the merger of Roose & Partners and Will Pond-Jones Collective.

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