JCDecaux sees Russian opportunity in 2012

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - JCDecaux JCDX.PA, Europe's largest outdoor advertising group, sees an opportunity to crack the lucrative Russian market in 2012, its co-Chief Executive Jean-Francois Decaux told Reuters on Saturday.

The group, which is present in Ukraine, dropped acquisition plans for Russia in late 2008 due to tough market conditions.

“Those markets have suffered very strongly -- they are down about 50 percent in 2009 versus 2008. This will probably trigger a wave of consolidation,” Decaux said in a television interview.

“We are waiting for the right time to enter Russia in a big way. In 2012, most contracts will expire, so there will be the perfect (opportunity) for us.”

He said Moscow's interest in beautification, as city authorities hope to soften the impact of years of Soviet urban planning, could also benefit the group, which offers everything from free bicycles to automatic public toilets. The group has returned to the acquisition trail in recent months and has said it could look at the assets of its U.S. rival CBS Outdoor CBSa.N if they come up for sale.

Decaux said the fact “bundling” advertising contracts had not succeeded as a sales tactic would push multimedia groups to refocus on their core activities and sell non-core assets.

But he expected CBS to hold back on a sale, rather than put assets on the block “at the bottom of the cycle.”

Earlier this month, JCDecaux posted a 10.9 percent fall in 2009 underlying revenue, beating its guidance for a 12.5 percent drop.

But Decaux said the pricing environment remained “difficult.”

Editing by Mike Peacock