Vivendi has made a move to buy French advertising group Havas, submitting an offer to Groupe Bolloré to purchase the 60% stake it owns for €2.36bn.
In a statement, Havas said that if Vivendi's offer is accepted, “Vivendi would enter a new phase of development to accelerate its building of a leading world-class content, media and communications group and will ensure the newly created group a unique positioning in an environment in which content, distribution and communications are converging.”
Vincent Bolloré is chairman and CEO of Groupe Bolloré and chairman of Vivendi. He is also the father of Havas Group chief executive Yannick Bolloré.
Groupe Bolloré upped its investment in Vivendi in 2016 to take a 20.4% stake in the business, becoming its biggest shareholder.
Vivendi owns Canal+ (the top TV operator in France, which also owns Studiocanal and has an agreement with premium paid-TV operation Media Set in Italy) and the Universal Music Group, as well as a controlling stake in Telecom Italia, gaming company Gameloft and video platform Dailymotion.
Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of rival advertising group WPP, said last year: “I find it a fascinating example of someone [Vincent Bolloré] who owns media, content and a telecoms platform and an agency. It’s never been done before.”
Sorrell added that in the event of a Vivendi making a move to buy Havas, there would be “all sorts of potential for conflict of interest.”
Havas said that out of the deal it would be able to leverage Vivendi's skills in talent management, content creation and distribution; in return Vivendi would have access to Havas's “expertise in consumer science, data analytics and new creative formats".
In an email sent to Havas staff, Yannick Bolloré said that Vivendi has "expressed its will to become a world leader in content and communications."
"Many of you have often mentioned how this convergence would be attractive for our talents. Our groups evolve in the same environment, some of our teams already collaborate and our cultures are similar and complementary," he wrote.
"Finally, our clients expect us to come up with innovative solutions and having privileged access to Vivendi's prestigious assets would enable us to create unique offerings and services all over the world. We have already launched shared initiatives which this operation would accelerate."
However, he also stressed that Vivendi would “preserve jobs” and “allow Havas to develop its business in an industry which is undergoing rapid consolidation” and is “threatened by increasing competition from companies coming from other sectors".
If the acquisition goes through, Vivendi will launch a simplified public tender offer on the remaining Havas shares at the same price, without seeking a delisting of Havas shares.