November 18, 2016 / 11:20 AM / 3 years ago

A Havas-Vivendi merger could 'make sense', Havas CEO says

BARCELONA (Reuters) - A merger between advertising group Havas HAVA.PA and French media giant Vivendi (VIV.PA) could “make sense”, Havas Chief Executive Officer Yannick Bollore said on Friday, underscoring the mutual benefit for a tie-up between the groups.

Yannick Bollore, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Havas poses during an interview with Reuters during the Cannes Lions Festival in Cannes, France, June 23, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

“It is an assumption that makes sense,” Bollore said in an interview on the sidelines of Morgan Stanley’s annual Tech, Media and Telecom (TMT) conference in Barcelona. “It would be a development project rather than a cost saving project,” he added.

“Big content could bring a lot to advertising and advertising could bring a lot to Vivendi’s entertainment world,” Bollore said.

Bollore insisted there were no formal talks currently between Vivendi and Havas.

He declined to comment on the form or timetable for such a deal, even though some investors and analysts are continuing to speculate on a tie-up, with Exane BNP Paribas publishing a note on Friday which saw a Vivendi/Havas merger as a possibility for the second quarter of 2017.

Havas, the world’s fifth-largest advertising company, is 60 percent-owned by Bollore’s father, French tycoon Vincent Bollore. Vincent Bollore owns a stake of more than 20 percent in Vivendi, and is also Vivendi chairman.

Vincent Bollore has repeatedly said that Vivendi and Havas, should work more closely together, with a potential merger down the road.

“Never say never”, Vivendi’s chief executive Arnaud de Puyfontaine said on Wednesday, in a response to a question on a possible merger with Havas.

Asked about the potential risk of a conflict of interest in a Havas-Vivendi tie-up, Yannick Bollore said that the risk existed, but that it was “minimal”.

Vivendi accounts for 0.05 percent of Havas’ revenues and Havas’ clients represent less than 1 percent of Vivendi’s revenues, added Yannick Bollore, who sits on Vivendi’s board.

Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain, Editing by Dominique Vidalon

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