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UPDATE 1-Havas buys UK media broker BLM Holdings

(Recasts with company’s statement, adds details)

PARIS, Jan 14 (Reuters) - French advertising group Havas EURC.PA said on Monday it was buying British media broker BLM Holdings Ltd for an undisclosed amount to boost its presence in the media buying and digital advertising markets in Britain.

The deal, which will almost double Havas' media presence in Britain, could also signal the start of a new round of acquisitions by Havas, whose chairman and majority shareholder Vincent Bollore has a majority stake in British media buying firm Aegis AEGS.L.

BLM buys television, radio and print spots, but Havas said it was particularly interested in its Internet arm BLM Quantum and in BLM’s long-term relationships with UK clients such as Paul Smith or Domino’s Pizza.

“The enlarged operation, together with (Havas) Media Contacts, gives a collective digital capacity that makes it the country’s second-largest digital media group,” the statement said.

BLM, which managed billings of 213 million pounds ($416.8 million) in 2007, will be combined with (Havas) Arena Media Communications and renamed Arena BLM, it said. The new entity will be managed by Steve Booth, BLM’s chief executive.

Havas’ statement confirmed a report by the Wall Street Journal in which Chief Executive Fernando Rodes Vila said the French advertising group could be back on the acquisition trail.

One or two more deals valued from 15 million euros to 60 million euros ($22.16 million to $88.65 million) are possible in the “near future”, he was quoted as saying.

The BLM deal will double the size of Havas’ media buying operations in Britain to about 350 million pounds in billings a year, Rodes Vila was quoted as saying.

“We have had problems to get into some key (account) pitches in the U.K. because we did not have the clout,” he said.

Media buying has become crucial for advertisers as media fragmentation makes it increasingly complicated to reach consumers.

About 20 percent of Havas’ 1.5 billion euros in annual revenue comes from media buying.

By 0802 GMT, Havas shares gained 0.34 percent at 2.95 euros. The shares have lost 12 percent so far this year amid concern over the impact of a global slowdown in advertising markets. (Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; editing by Sue Thomas)

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