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.

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“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