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Yannick Bolloré on what Publicis-Omnicom merger means for Havas in first public appearance since becoming CEO

Making his first public appearance since taking the reins from David Jones earlier this year, Havas CEO Yannick Bolloré has said that the merger of Publicis and Omnicom has not fazed him - in fact he believes clients and talent will make their way to Havas as a result.

Speaking at Adverting Week Europe, he told David Rowan, editor of Wired and host of the session: “I was surprised by the announcement. It was not the strategy each company was describing. We don’t know what they will do. They’re waiting on full clearance so maybe they will pull a rabbit out of the hat that will rationalise it.

“What’s important are clients,” he added, explaining that Havas has gone on to win some key clients since the deal was announced. One such win was the $150m Emirates account, which Havas took from Publicis just two months after John Wren and Maurice Levy struck the deal.

“I don’t want to be too optimistic but when I look at the recent wins, we are facing a good momentum,” he said.

Bolloré also suggested that the merger has been a coup for Havas in terms of talent.

“It will bring an opportunity for Havas to hire some talent, because Publicis and Omnicom have great guys and I’m not sure they will manage, or they will want, to keep both. They will need to make some savings,” he said.

When probed about his own acquisition or merger plans, Bolloré explained that the time, and company, would have to be right but it is not something he has ruled out, especially given that "clients are more global" and need a global agency to service those needs.

“Havas is in a very secure financial position. We have a $2bn liquidity. So we have the money to seize opportunities if they come. But when we think about buying a company our strategy is not about being the biggest in terms of scale, but to the best company for connecting people with brands.”

He was somewhat evasive when asked about the highly speculated possibility of a merger with Vivendi, a French media and entertainment group where Vincent Bolloré – Yannick’s father and largest shareholder in the Havas group – is also shareholder.

“I’m CEO at Havas, not Vivendi so can’t comment,” he said, but explained that content and entertainment are areas that Havas is looking to invest in and that it does do a lot of work with the company.

On the subject of his father, Bollore was asked what it was like joining the “family business” from the film production company which he had founded. The CEO said that the family element is one of the company’s key advantages.

“When you have a large shareholder who owns nearly 40 per cent of the company it gives you the opportunity to develop a long-term strategy. We are not only focused on short-term profit. We are really focused on the long term prospects and building for the future, and clients like that.”

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