The chief executive of Kantar is reported to be in talks with banks and private equity firms about a potential split from parent company WPP following the exit of Sir Martin Sorrell earlier this month.
According to The Times, Eric Salama it looking to make a potential £3.5bn management buyout of the data and market research company.
Kantar currently employs around 30,000 staff in 100 countries and last year achieved operating profits of £350m on £2.7bn of sales.
Since the departure of Sorrell amid allegations of financial misconduct, speculation has been rife that WPP’s sprawling business could be broken apart, with analysts suggesting the sum is not as valuable as the individual parts.
The sale of its main businesses could amount to £22bn, dwarfing its £15bn market cap. Kantar could net it about £3.5bn.
But, Sorrell’s temporary replacements during the hunt for a new CEO – co-chief operating officers Mark Read and Andrew Scott – have downplayed such talks.
In one of their first memos to staff, Read and Scott denied that there was any intention to break up the company.
“We don’t believe this makes sense. In a world where clients need faster, more agile, integrated solutions, we need to get closer together, not further apart,” they said.
Though Salama - who is thought to be in the running for the group CEO job - is in agreement that WPP should not be broken up, he is understood to be looking at the option of a buyout should investors push for the sale of Kantar.
A WPP spokesperson said: "Roberto Quarta [executive chairman], Mark Read and Andrew Scott are leading the business and reviewing the group's strategy. They will focus on the optimum shape of the group to create growth and shareholder value and will make their recommendations to the board in due course.
“It is too early to speculate about specific asset sales. In the meantime, it has been made clear that they don't believe breaking up the group makes sense."