Omnicom, Publicis to win EU okay for $35 billion merger

BRUSSELS Tue Dec 17, 2013 10:18am EST

Omnicom Chief Executive John Wren (L) and Publicis Group Chairman and CEO Maurice Levy shake hands after announcing an agreement on their merger on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York July 29, 2013. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Omnicom Chief Executive John Wren (L) and Publicis Group Chairman and CEO Maurice Levy shake hands after announcing an agreement on their merger on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York July 29, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Omnicom (OMC.N) and Publicis (PUBP.PA) will win unconditional European Union regulatory approval for their $35.1 billion merger to create the world's biggest advertising agency, two people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

U.S. company Omnicom currently ranks second, behind WPP (WPP.L), while Publicis is in third place. The deal will allow the combined company to better compete with online rivals in ad placement such as Google (GOOG.O) and Facebook (FB.O).

"The European Commission will clear the merger unconditionally," one of the people said. The EU competition authority has set a January 9 deadline for its decision.

"We are currently investigating and it would be very premature to speculate on the outcome of this investigation," said Antoine Colombani, Commission spokesman for competition policy.

Analysts had expected the deal to draw tough antitrust scrutiny because of the combined company's strong market share and possible concerns from major clients.

The French-U.S. giant would bring the accounts of major competitors in a number of industries such as Apple (AAPL.O) and Samsung (005930.KS), or Coca-Cola (KO.N) and PepsiCo (PEP.N), under one roof.

It will also group together Publicis agencies such as Saatchi & Saatchi and Leo Burnett with Omnicom's BBDO Worldwide and DDB Worldwide.

Regulators in the United States, South Korea, Canada, India, Turkey and South Africa have already nodded the merger through.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by John O'Donnell and Tom Pfeiffer)

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