Havas CEO steps down, group ready for acquisitions

PARIS , March 8 Tue Mar 8, 2011 3:21pm EST

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PARIS , March 8 (Reuters) - French advertising group Havas (EURC.PA) announced on Tuesday the surprise resignation of its chief executive, citing personal reasons, and said it had 700 million euros ready to spend on acquisitions in the next three years.

David Jones, head of communications strategy division Havas Worldwide, would replace Fernando Rodes, who has decided to pursue personal aspirations, Havas said in its earnings statement. Rodes became Havas CEO in March 2006.

Net income last year grew 20 percent to 110 million euros and sales were up 8 percent. Havas proposed to raise its dividend by one quarter to 10 euros a share.

Chairman and investor Vincent Bollore said on a conference call that Havas had 700 million ($972.9 million) to 750 million euros earmarked for acquisitions in the media, public relations and digital advertising businesses.

"We have decided to take up external growth again," said Bollore who owns about a third of Havas's share capital. "There are plenty of opportunities everywhere."

The group, which competes with Publicis Groupe SA (PUBP.PA), Omnicom Group Inc (OMC.N) and WPP Plc (WPP.L), intends to grow its sales to 2.5 billion euros in the next three years from 1.6 billion last year, he said. ($1=.7195 Euro) (Reporting by Gwenaelle Barzic and Cyril Altmeyer, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)

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